When it comes to a winter holiday, both in Europe and further afield, most people will be happy to spend their days tackling the slopes before embracing the apres-ski on an evening with friends.
However, there are some people for whom that isn’t quite enough - with a greater sense of adventure meaning they want to head off the beaten track to explore the off piste action that is available in their resort.
As the name suggests, off piste skiing is when you head off the main marked ski runs to explore other areas, with some resorts referring to the activity as backcountry or cross-country skiing.
It’s certainly not the kind of skiing that is suitable for everyone, with those who are less experienced or less confident being well advised to stick to the marked slopes.
But if you do decide to go off piste, what do you need to bear in mind?
For a start, you need to consider how different off piste skiing can be compared to sticking to the main slopes, where you’ll be running on groomed slopes that have been specially prepared and graded so everyone knows what level of skiers they cater for.
Head off piste and you’ll have none of that waiting for you, with a more challenging ski experience waiting for you on snow that hasn’t been groomed or marked in any way.
As a result, you’ll need to be aware of the fact there will be nothing to help guide you down the slopes and nothing to warn you in advance of any potential hazards you might encounter - like a sudden drop ahead.
That challenge is arguably the main attraction of going off piste, although you can also look forward to the fact that you’ll be able to enjoy some stunning scenery that is hidden away from the main slopes, and will also escape some of the crowds that are to be found on the main ski runs.
Should you be travelling at peak season, the latter factor could be particularly key…
If you are going off piste for the first time, there are a number of things that you want to bear in mind.
First things first, you need to try and gain an understanding of what to expect from the off piste skiing in the area where you are travelling. Local experts can fill you in on where to head for the best of the conditions and if there are any particular areas that you should avoid.
You should also pay particular attention to the snow conditions before you head out to explore somewhere new. Should there be a risk of avalanches for example, you would be well advised to leave your adventure for another day.
Because you are going off the beaten track and away from areas that are monitored by regular patrols, you should ensure that you don’t go off piste on your own - particularly when you are doing so for the first time.
Should something happen whilst you are off piste - and accidents do happen - then having someone alongside you will provide additional safety to ensure that you really make the most of the experience.
That’s not to say you can’t head off alone and if that is the case, you should make someone aware of where you are going. Also ensure you have the correct equipment with you to deal with an emergency situation, which could range from a fall in deep snow to a sudden change in the weather conditions.
Above all however, you should simply enjoy yourself when skiing off piste. It’s a totally different experience to what you might be used to already and requires a different technique where you need to keep your speed up, but once you’ve enjoyed exploring a new type of skiing, you’re sure to want to do it again.