What's better than being at the right time at the right place? Perfect powder and no stress. Flexibility is key to ride the best snow in the best conditions. But how do you find the best conditions? The following 10 tips help you to organize your own powder trip.
The basic principles:
- Avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are compulsory items. No beacon, shovel and probe? Don't go off-piste.
- Gear is good, the right knowledge is better! Prevention is better than the cure.
- No knowledge? Hire a guide!
1. Block your agenda and check Morris his forecast
Nothing more painful than to be at the wrong time in the wrong place in the Alps. Brochures of tour operators and resorts often make you believe that they have an endless supply of powder, but we all know that's not particularly true. If you want to go on a powder trip, booking ahead isn't the best thing to do. And if you are looking for powder, then Morris is your man. He knows if and where the snow comes down. In short, block a couple of days in your agenda and check Morris his forecast where the snow will come down during those days. If there's snow coming up, his forecasts work like this:
- He starts with a PowderWatch (the snow will fall, but it is still not sure where exactly)
- This is followed by an PowderAlert (the regions are certain, the details not yet)
- He goes into detail with the Where to go (fine tuning tips for the last moment (this is the time to book your accommodation))
- He's looking back in the aftermath (share the stoke or 'you should have been here yesterday;)) If the snow won't come down and the conditions pretty much suck, cancel your trip and wait for better days. If the snow does come down, than it's time for step two.
2. Never book too early!
Morris repeats this over and over again. Never book too early! Of course you have your trips with family and friends, trips in which you want to learn a lot and trips overseas. It's quite impossible to book those trips far in advance. But the difference is that these aren't powder trips, but trips to the snow. You book those trips in advance and maybe you're lucky. If you go on a powder trip you book as late as possible. And that's 24 to 48 hours before departure. We know that's hard, a bit exciting perhaps, but you'll be rewarded. In the meantime, get your crew together and make sure your gear is in the right condition.
3. Choose your crew carefully
Too fast or too slow? Reckless or chickens? Afraid that you can't find any accommodation? Talking the talk, but not walking the walk? Powder buddies can make or break your trip. And you should be picky. It starts with safety. Do they own and know how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe? Do they have the knowledge to ride out of bounds? No? Then find new buddies or hire a guide who arranges everything for you. If you all have the gear and the knowledge than it's important that you all match on a personal level. Nothing more annoying than a mismatch in the terrain. For both parties. It leads to stress and stress in a group is not good for decision making. The freeride passport can help you in choosing your powder buddies.
4. Three is a crowd!
Powder panic increases in large groups. A group with three to four persons is perfect. You all fit in one car, the group is small enough not to get powder panic and big enough to help each other in case the shit hits the fan. Of course you can meet with other riders after a powder day, but keep the group small when you're riding powder.
5. Travel light, travel fast
Packing can be a hassle. You should bring all your gear: avalanche airbags, beacons, helmets, snowboard, skis, boots, jackets etc. Keep it simple. The plan is to ride powder for a couple of days, not to go on an endless winter (you'd wish). You don't need that much. A powder buddy who has been packing like he's going on a polar expedition isn't the best travel companion. It is a powder trip, not a fashion show or expedition. You should make clear to the group what the goals for those days are. Are you going to tour, ride some tree runs or ride steep couloirs? Or basicly everything? Be clear and make your choice before you leave. It saves a lot of gear and a lot of hassle. Sure you don't need a trailer? Go to step 6.
6. Start preparing
You got your crew together, you've blocked your agenda, your knowledge is up to date and you know what gear to bring. Morris had already published a PowderWatch and there's snow coming up. You already know in what regions in the Alps the snow will come down. Time to prepare. How is the base in those regions? Is there enough snow? What about the avalanche danger? Which routes can you ride there? How are the road conditions? Are there closed mountain passes, toll roads and car trains you should think of? In addition, it is a good idea to discuss with each other about how the journey will look like. Do you drive during the day or at night?
In this phase you feel the urge to book your accommodation. You've found plenty of inspiration on the destination pages. Right now it is important not to give in to that urge. The snow can easily come down slightly more to the east or the west. Do not be fooled by the centimeters on the forecast page. You still have to wait! And read as much as possible about the region you're about to go to.
7. Yes, where to go!
It is up to 48 hours before the snow will come down. You can read some advice in Morris his weather forecast. He will warn you about specific risks, offers tips for choosing what type of terrain and give you an idea what to expect. The centimeter lists for 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours ahead are now pretty good. Combined with the tips and tricks of Morris you will get a good idea of where you should go. And with a little luck, he also mentions some specific areas in his forecast. In the end you are the one who makes the decision. Where are you going? A well-known or not so known resort? Big or with just one or two lifts? Steep and bare, flat or tree runs? The choice is yours. Make that choice before you book and do not forget that the biggest dump is not always the best dump. Stormy winds and/or (too) much snow can result in closed lifts and inaccessible villages. The deepest dump is not always the best dump. Sometimes it pays to visit smaller resorts. Maybe a little less snow (but who will notice the difference between 50 and 70 cm), but also less known, less stress and more first tracks.
8. Safety starts at home!
If you followed the Mountain Academy you know that preparation starts at home. What about the weather and the snow? What's the terrain like? What gear to bring and who do ride with? Now it's time to have a look at the snow, the weather and the terrain. Please use the destination page or forecast page. Click on an resorts that you find interesting and you'll find the weather forecast (short term) and a link to the current avalanche forecast. If you scroll down you'll find some nice lines in some resorts, so you have some inspiration. Now it's time to book.
9. Book your accommodation
Strange but true. It is less than 48 hours to go, and now is the time to book your accommodation. Exciting? Not anymore. It used to be exciting. When Morris and I drove around in his old Toyota and internet was still a rare commodity, it often happened that it was hard to find a place to sleep. Those were the days. Nowadays, I can find a place to sleep online. Just fill in the dates and press the button. That can you do at home, but also on the road. And then?.....
10. Have the time of your life
You're about to have a great trip. Deep powder, with a group of friends, the right gear, a good picture of the area and if you've really chosen well it won't be that busy. Powder for you and your friends. Of course you have read the actual local avalanche forecast, done a beacon check and you've picked the lines that are the perfect mix for you between pleasure and risk. Mission accomplished and after the weekend with a smile back on your work.
Mission accomplished? Yes! With this article I want to give you some tips on how to organize your own powder trip. You might also have some tips and tricks, please mention them in the comments! But if there's one thing I've learned in all these years then it's NEVER BOOK TOO EARLY! Happy hunting!