I went to a talk about off-piste recently. It was held at the Berghaus store in London and delivered by Nick Parks, a mountain guide from Mountain Tracks, a British company whose speciality is off-piste and touring courses and adventures.
Nick presented an “A-Z of Backcountry Skiing”, incorporating, for instance, T for trinity (the three-pronged kit of transceiver/shovel/probe), P for powder, C for conifers (“focus on the gaps; beware if there’s an area of little ones, where there might be a history of avalanches”) and A for avalanche (“you need three factors: instability in the snowpack, a steep enough slope and a trigger”).
Less obvious choices included E for ‘eliskiing, J for Japan (“the lightest snow on the planet, but ridiculously expensive”) and K for Kashmir, where Mountain Tracks runs some trips.
The alphabet, Nick confessed, was incomplete: he omitted G, L, N, O and Y. I will fill in the gaps.
G is for gnarly (“show-off word to use in the bar”), gloves (“mittens are warmest”) or glacier (“don’t get excited about them: they’re often flat and bleak and you might fall in”).
L is for loo roll (“carry spare in Italy as mountain loos often lack it”), lift pass (“uncool to let it flap around: use the little pocket on your arm”) or legs (“get strong ones”).
N is for nose-grab-tail-bonk (“mad-sounding snowboarding move described in Fall-Line magazine this month”) or neck-warmer (“essential piece of kit that, still, too few people know about”).
O is for off-piste, of course.
Y is for yellow snow (“do not eat, and create with care”), yodel (http://tinyurl.com/d4on5k7) or yippeeeeeeee – which it’s customary to yell while indulging in E, O, N or P – or perhaps if you somehow land a holiday to J or K.
Incidentally on the subject of lists, MT has also published a list of 25 ‘must-do’ alpine descents in the Western Alps. I’m alarmed to see I’ve only done five of them. Find it here http://tinyurl.com/d3hhu5b.
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