Off-piste skills: the essentials

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 05/01/2017
Get ready for your trip with Mountain Guide Joe Vallone.

Want to learn the most essential off-piste skills? Or perhaps you just need a quick refresh before your trip? Don't miss BMC TV's handy little series of three-minute videos starring IFMGA Mountain Guide Joe Vallone, as he demonstrates a number of crucial backcountry skills.

Topics covered include: how to pack for off-piste adventures, transitioning from skinning to bootpacking, Baton Ramasse side-step on very steep slopes, putting skis on when it's steep, rigging for abseiling, building a Deadman Anchor and making a Z-pulley system.

WATCH: What to pack for off-piste on BMC TV

Joe shows us the indispensable items he packs whenever he goes off-piste. Avalanche rescue kit is in there, of course: a shovel, probe and transceiver. But what else do you need? These few items could make your time in the mountains much more comfortable and save your life. Joe's items, plus any technical gear you need for your specific trip, should put you in a good position to start your adventure. 

WATCH: How to transition from skinning to bootpacking on BMC TV

When off-piste, there are times when the terrain becomes so steep that you need to transition from skinning to bootpacking. Here are some tips to help improve speed and efficiency. By keeping your skis out and stowing your poles in the shoulder strap of your backpack you can use your skis for assistance in the three methods demonstrated.

WATCH: Baton Ramasse – side stepping on steep slopes on BMC TV

When you're confronted by hard, narrow and/or rocky terrain and you don't have immediate access to your ice axe, Baton Ramasse is a useful French technique using ski poles to stabilise yourself.

WATCH: How to put skis on when it's steep on BMC TV

Putting your skis on and taking them off on steep terrain may sound fairly simple in theory, but when you've got tired legs, and a no-fall zone beneath you, the proper technique really comes in handy. External factors such as the weather and snowpack conditions can make these tasks more challenging, too.

WATCH: Rigging for an abseil on BMC TV

In this episode, Joe takes us through a good abseiling technique, which can help minimise the risks. Make sure you test the system is locking before unclipping from the anchor.

WATCH: Building a T-Slot or Deadman Anchor on BMC TV

Rescue techniques are really important when travelling in terrain with imminent danger such as crevasses and cliffs. A good T-slot anchor will provide a secure point to take the weight of people involved in a rescue situation.

WATCH: How to make a Z-drag or Z-pulley system on BMC TV

An important technique to learn so you can efficiently help rescue a victim from above. Using standard crevasse rescue equipment, Joe explains step-by-step how to initiate this part of the set-up to perform a successful rescue. Make sure you are familiar with building a T-slot anchor prior to attempting these techniques (see previous video).

More about Mountain Guide and star of these videos, Joe Vallone on his website: provallone.com.


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