When is the right time to introduce your kids to off-piste skiing and what's the best way to go about it?
Taking an off-piste ski trip as a family is all about the adventure - discovering new landscapes, new skiing techniques and new dangers.
Nick Parks, mountain guide and director of Mountain Tracks, says, "Off-piste skiing is great for families because it keeps them skiing together once the pistes start to become too restrictive and gives parents reassurance that their children are learning essential skills that will keep them safe when skiing off-piste."
Of course even if you feel your kids are ready for the world of off-piste, mountain guides have their own set of criteria - many stipulate children must be aged 12 and competent on red or black runs, so be sure to check when booking.
Robert Lindebner, mountain guide and director of Freeride-Gastein, thinks children are natural born freeriders. He says, "It´s in the nature of children that they want to find their own way. When they are small and able to snowplough, most children are searching for their own adventures. They want to jump, try moguls and ski outside the prepared pistes."
If the family budget stretches to hiring a private guide - great, if not consider a group off-piste tour suited to your family's skill level. Either way, you'll be skiing with a professional guide who will inspire, educate and keep the family safe.
Safety is an important part of the off-piste experience - expect to learn about avalanche equipment, navigation, route-finding, and snowpack/slope analysis.
Hit the off-piste powder as a family. Credit Grand Targhee
Popular off-piste destinations:
Italy: La Thuile, Gressoney, Alagna
France: Les Arcs, Chamonix, Flaine, Tignes, Val d'Isere, La Grave, Sainte Foy, Serre Chevalier, Val Thorens
Switzerland: Wengen, Les Diablerets, Engelberg, Grimentz, Andermatt, Davos, Zermatt, Zinal, Verbier
Austria: St. Anton am Arlberg, Damuls, Gastein, Ischgl
Whichever destination you choose, you'll be able to find an off-piste tour to fit your family's skills.
Off-piste skiing into Zinal, Switzerland. Credit Mountain Tracks
Guides and packages
Here's our pick of mountain guides and off-piste packages for the family:
Contact: Tel: +44 (0)208-123-2978; email@example.com.
Based in London, Mountain Tracks run private and group off-piste tours suitable for families. Tours take place in various locations across the Alps, including Chamonix, Sainte Foy, Zinal, Gressoney and Serre Chevalier. Off-piste tours are divided into two levels: Performance courses which are led by ski instructors (BASI 4 or International equivalent) and Adventure courses which are led by IFMGA Mountain Guides. Mountain Tracks also run bespoke camps for private groups anywhere in the Alps.
Mountain Tracks' packages include seven nights' chalet board accommodation, six evening meals, five full days' ski instruction and in-resort transfers. The price does not include lift pass, lunch, personal insurance, ski/snowboard gear, safety equipment hire, travel to/from the resort.
Off-Piste Performance Intro, Chamonix (maximum six people)
Duration: Seven days (five full days of off-piste instruction)
Price per person: £1,095
Off-Piste Adventure, Zermatt (maximum six people)
Duration: Seven days (five full days of off-piste guiding)
Price per person: £1,195
Contact: Tel +43 (0)664-1746-282; firstname.lastname@example.org
Based in St Anton am Arlberg, Austria, Piste to Powder runs private and group off-piste tours suitable for families. They divide their courses into four skill levels, ranging from a gentle introduction to off-piste skiing to challenging adventures on steep slopes, couloirs and deep powder.
Piste to Powder's packages can be a single or multi-day (five days) trip. All include safety equipment (safety equipment rucksack, avalanche transceivers, shovel, probe). You must bring your own skis/snowboard, poles, hemlets, goggles and sunblock.
Group off-piste tour (maximum seven people)
Duration: A full day
Price per person: €100 (£87)
Private off-piste tour (maximum seven people)
Duration: A full day
Price per person: €400 (£350) for two people and €50 (£40) for each additional person
Contact: Tel +43(0)664-750-24600; email@example.com
Based in Bad Gastein, Austria, Freeride-Gastein run private family freeride days. The guide decides in the morning where the best snow and weather conditions are then checks the abilities of the members on an easier run and he decides which route to take. Most family off-piste tours are on the Stubnerkogel or Schloßalm region.
Freeride-Gastein's Family Freeride Day includes safety equipment (avalanche transceivers, shovel, probe), but you must bring your own skis/snowboard, poles, helmet, goggles, backpack and sunblock.
Family Freeride Day (maximum six people)
Duration: A full or half-day
Price for family: Half-day (9 a.m-12 p.m) €249 (£207); Full-day (9 a.m-3 p.m) €380 (£317)