14 August 2022

Snowboarding blog: Off-piste newbie

March 24, 2016

As the girlfriend of a snowboarding junky, from November onwards I receive daily, detailed snow reports on what is happening across the alps. This year on our annual trip we headed back to Sestrière in Italy so I could get experience of heading off-piste. 


Sestrière lies at the heart of the Milky Way which offers almost 400 km of pisted runs. It is an alpine village in Italy situated in Val Susa, 17 km from the French border.

We arrived to blue skies, fresh air and great food at our hotel the Principi de Piemonte which lies to the side of the Sestrière piste, you can board from the door almost onto the slope!

I love the freedom of being in the mountains and the exhilaration that comes from carving through the snow.

Getting ready for a day on the slopes is like a military operation!

  • First of all you have to play a game of what fits in what pocket!
  • Then from a hot hotel room try and work out how many layers will be necessary.

It is very true about all extreme sports you don’t buy the padding until you hurt yourself. I am now the proud wearer of essential padding including helmet, impact shorts, wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads.


For any first timer I would recommend:

  • a helmet,
  • wrist guards,
  • impact shorts
  • knee pads

You will be surprised – once you get used to feeling like a Michelin man! These confidence boosting extra layers really do keep you protected from any big knocks.

The first day always starts with nervous anticipation! Martyn, my boyfriend is a traveler when it comes to snowboarding, we have to tick off every run on the piste map during the week. As we have been to Sestriere before, this year was about new adventures off-piste!

From the lifts you can really scope out the best off-piste areas and look for any dangers. Before going off-piste you need to be comfortable and confident enough to keep going with enough speed to push through the thick powder.


My top tips:

  1. The first thing to remember your first time off-piste is to accept you will spend a considerable amount of time digging yourself out of deep snow, this is part of the fun. When this happens use it as a good rest stop take in the view then try and roll onto your knees, packing the snow around them to give you a good basin which to push up.
  2. Once you’re up keep your weight centered over the board, with slightly more weight in your back foot.
  3. Look where you want to go and relax.
  4. Powder is harder than the slope because it has not been groomed ready for you to slice into, therefore you need more speed to carry your weight over the thick layer, which means linking your turns in a long flowing consistency, the bonus is, if you fall over its not going to hurt because it’s like falling into a cloud.
  5. For your first time off-piste go with someone experienced and patient! Pick an area which is open preferably where you can see runs and make your way to them once you’re tired.


Sestriere is a great region to learn off-piste as there is plenty of safe areas in-between the runs.

Once you feel a little bit more confident and able there is plenty of off-piste on the Sauze D’Oulx side of the mountain too, this is where we went on our third day.

As we got higher I felt the butterflies in my stomach rising in anticipation for what was to come. We walked around the lift and literally slid off the edge it was quite steep and the snow crunched under my board where the top layer had frozen. This off-piste was quite well worn but it was still amazing to be the only two on the slope. we made our way onto the long blue descent and then again popped over the edge into the trees, the conifers were tightly packed and I did my best to follow Martyn’s expert line through them. My skill level is not quite as good and I found myself sitting amongst the branches on more than one occasion!

We found a great little cake and drink stop overlooking Sestriere and the mountains beyond. From there we made our way into the clearing a vast space of pure white snow where no one had been. I loved the feeling of making my own tracks and the complete freedom of being able to go where ever I wanted. We ended up at the back of a hotel and used our boards as sledges to get down to the lift ready for round two!

After picking up some lunch supplies we headed back up on the gondola, Martyn casually said “let’s stop on those rocks for lunch” I wasn’t so keen on the idea of lunch on the edge of a rock but once we got to our lunch spot I changed my mind. We had panoramic mountain views and peace and quiet our own spot on the top of the world.


After lunch we slid off the other side of our rocky out crop carving our own trail into the mountain side back into Sestriere.

Stopping at the bottom for a well-earned hot chocolate and beer stop we planned our next descent. This time the plan was to go off-piste from the Sestriere side and find a place to build a little jump, I had never done any jumps before so was excited about trying something new.

Once off-piste we looked for a spot where we could build a jump, Martyn found the ideal area with a good run off and a nice soft landing. Once we had built the jump (which was hard work) Martyn showed me what I needed to do and we took it in turns Martyn successfully and me nearly successfully in getting air! My biggest issue seemed to be staying pointing down the hill! The landing was soft and I was soon making a little progress!

The sun started to fade as did my energy levels so we made our way slowly through the trees on one last off-piste run off the trip.

Hannah Attenborough, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Hannah’s blog: hattenburrow.com
Hannah’s twitter: twitter.com/Hannaha87








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