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Tips for safe freeriding in Engelberg

23 January 2019

If you are looking for the ultimate freeride Eldorado, Engelberg is the place for you. Thanks to the unique topography of the Titlis, powder lovers can look forward to a huge number of awe-inspiring routes, located at altitudes of up to 3,020 metres – throughout almost the entire winter season. But off-piste skiing also entails risks that every freerider should be prepared for. In order to fully enjoy Engelberg's backcountry, we have put together some valuable tips for safe and fun freeskiing days in Laub, Steinberg and Galtiberg:

Professional co-skiers are mandatory
Skiing outside the groomed slopes means being further away from rescue services and possibly being exposed to a higher risk of avalanches. Good equipment is worth its weight in gold, but doesn't mean it's safe to do anything you want in the snow. If you do not know the freeride areas around Engelberg like the back of your hand, you should definitely have a trained mountain guide or ski instructor with you. This person can estimate distances, topographical conditions and consequences of weather changes much better than someone who only knows the terrain from Google Maps. Basically, the following applies to all freeriders: Never enter unmarked terrain alone!

The necessary equipment
In addition to the usual ski equipment, avalanche equipment is an absolute must for freeriding. Such equipment includes an avalanche transceiver, which helps locating persons buried in the snow in the event of an avalanche. An avalanche probe has the same function. Freeriders should also carry an avalanche shovel, a first aid kit and a fully charged mobile phone. If you go deep into the backcountry, you should also carry an airbag backpack that inflates during an avalanche and prevents you from getting too buried by the snow.

Know the terrain
In addition to booking a trained mountain guide / ski instructor and buying avalanche equipment, it is of course also important to obtain comprehensive information about the terrain in advance. Which routes are there? What is the current snow and avalanche situation like? Which areas should be avoided at all costs? etc. Only those who already know the terrain, at least in theory, should enter it. In Switzerland, the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalance Research (SLF) provides information on the current avalanche situation.

Mastering the freeskiing technique
In terrain, i.e. in deep powder snow, skiing requires a much more sophisticated technique than skiing on the groomed piste. In powder snow, having an active up/down movement prevents you from sinking too much into the snow and generates enough lift to advance forward in a controlled manner. Freeriding is only for advanced, experienced skiers, who already have some experience of powder snow skiing. If you are not completely sure of your abilities, we recommend taking a special off-piste skiing short course.

Freeriding tips for Engelberg
In Engelberg there are many opportunities for both existing and aspiring freeriders. For example, four times every winter, the "Snow & Safety Days" are organized. During three days, mountain guides introduce (aspiring) freeriders to the secrets of the sport. The introduction includes a large practical part. Guests staying overnight can even take this course free of charge! In addition, the resort has an avalanche training center, where freeriders can practice their skills in "avalanche behaviour".
All in all, the biggest danger of freeriding is to be unprepared and careless. But if you follow the tips listed above, there is nothing stopping you from new exciting experiences in the snow and the outstanding feeling of freedom that freeriding offers.

Ski tour operator SnowTrex has more tips on safe skiing.

Text: Carla Meyer
Carla Meyer has been an enthusiastic skier since she was a little girl and loves powder snow skiing. As an online editor for ski tour operator SnowTrex, she is particularly committed to topics related to safe skiing. What is a must for her on the slopes? - A ski helmet! (And a few chocolate bars to enjoy in the lift...)

Image: Engelberg-Titlis Tourismus

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