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In your ski or snowboard life there are some things which are just ‘must do’s’, although in truth the ten we’ve listed here could possibly also be included in a ‘must not do' list. Anyway here is our Top Ten list of mountain experiences that shouldn’t, well mostly, be missed.

heli ski riksgransen by mark borland


Get some air

The park is not just for pros, seasonaires and kids that bounce: it’s for everyone! Yes, even people wearing all in-one 70’s Rodeo skisuits from C+A…. There is nothing quite like the trepidation of standing amongst a group of the initiated above a line of jumps or, even more intimidating, a huge halfpipe. It’s easy to turn tail and ski/snowboard around all the features, but that’s not the right attitude to take.  Choose an easy jump or two, in many parks the jumps are colour coded according to difficulty in the same was as runs, and hit them, not too fast, with skis/snowboard flat to the snow and take to the air - just remember to bend the knees on landing. If you really can’t bring yourself to do it, then first hit one of the airbags or indoor foam pits, such as Woodward at Copper

Free yourself and get lost

Letting your mind free itself of all life’s trappings, and just feeling the skis glide across the snow with a clear mind, is what it’s all about. So let yourself get lost, as that one moment of true escapism is well worth; wrestling with a tree or having to walk back up hill and even an expensive taxi ride home.
Anyone who has left the piste or turned into the trees, only to get stuck, doesn’t remember the realisation of why no one else had hit that little stretch of powder, but revels in the fact that they’d lost-themselves in a true moment of freedom. What’s the fun of looking at piste maps anyway?
Snow’s advice is to get lost in the morning, as taking a wrong turn while on your skis isn’t normally too much of a problem. But do it at the end of the day, in a linked area such as Portes du Soleil, and you could well find yourself in Switzerland while your bed’s back in France

Try the dark side

Switching disciplines, even if just for a few hours, is the only way to truly know what it’s like to experience the dark side.  You never know, ‘dicks with sticks’ and ‘gays on trays’ could be a thing of the past, if we’d only embrace the other side and give it a shot ourselves. It’s a bit like multiculturalism, it only works with a little give and take, so why not start with a little smile at a skier/snowboarder, maybe even spend the day with one, before going the whole hog and strapping on a pair of skis or clipping into a snowboard and having a go.

Sledge to the Pub 

Don’t dismiss it until you’ve done it, it’s cheaper than a taxi, and more fun than the bus. Ever been staying above the main resort town, in a sleepy village, where you look down the pistes to the bright lights of the ski resort proper? Well, greedy taxi drivers with a monopoly or a bus that’s stopped running need not spoil your night out. Simply tuck a sledge under your arm (one with brakes) and head for the pistes, or better still a special sledge piste, and head for the bar. Many of the sledge pistes/pistes du luge have hairpin bends, so watch out not to end up leaving the trail, and find yourself hugging a tree multiple feet from the ground.
We at Snow, obviously, have never done this and advise you never to try this alone, as it’s more fun with two in the sledge anyway.

Paraponte-Paraglide

We’ve all seen them, soaring above us mere land based creatures, freed from the shackles of gravity. Now we don’t propose you simply take to the skies on your own, but a tandem paraponte/paraglide is an option. Strap yourself to the front of an expert (well, hopefully an expert) and point you skis or snowboard straight down the mountain and keep them that way until you leave terra firma.  For those brave enough, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the pistes seldom seen, and you can always calm the nerves and warm up afterwards with a vin chaud. If that’s not enough to get the heart thumping, then a tandem free-fall over the mountains will be. Whitetracks will not only organise a free-fall for you, but rather than a plane, you’ll be jumping from a helicopter - now that’s just stupid.

Heliski/catskiing

Jumping (no; not when it’s still flying) out of a helicopter or a cat is the ultimate in back country powder skiing. Being high in a mountain range, miles from anywhere, amongst a small group of likeminded people is truly very special. Hitting long expanses of virgin powder all day long is only really possible with a helicopter and you can easily speed down a 1,500 meter descent, only to find the chopper waiting at the bottom to take you straight back to the top of another mountain. So OK, yes, it does cost a lot of money to fly - so that’s where cat skiing comes in; it’s honestly just as much fun and you still get that back country experience. The other huge advantage is there are seldom days when a cat can’t run, whereas helicopters are often grounded due to bad weather. The runs aren’t as long in a cat but there’s often more of them and you’ll never be told halfway through the day that you’ve used up all you air time and if you want another ride it’s going to cost you. Due to the limited terrain open to heliskiing and catskiing operators in the Alps, we recommend North America or The Arctic. 

Work a ski season

There are many reasons to work a ski season, from escaping the 9 to 5 - or your parents - to learning new skills, such as catering, instructing or even the very underrated people/communication skills. But the two main personal reasons are to become a far far better skier/snowboarder than you ever would by holidaying for one week a year every year, and secondly, it’s the only way to ensure you get the best of the season’s snow. Imagine never missing a powder day all season, now that’s living! Doing a ski season in the Alps all winter couldn’t have become easier: for anyone with a flexible job and no ties, free Wi-Fi, Skype and email makes remote freelance work possible, and agencies such as Natives make finding industry jobs a doddle.  Yes, you may end up sharing a room full of stinking ski boots and wet socks, or spend most mornings in marigolds, but you’ll forget all that when you’re hurtling down a powder field in the afternoon. 

Catch First Lift

We’ve all been there; sat in a gondola looking down at the smug ones ripping it down a pristine piste. Well the only way to beat them to the fresh tracks, is catch the first lift before they do. It sounds simple, but actually it needs a lot of planning.
Firstly; you need to make sure you’re not the one leading the conga at 2.00am still in your ski gear the night before. Check the forecast before you decide to party, and if snows on the way tuck yourself up in bed with an alarm set. 
Secondly; follow the golden rule ‘no friends on powder day’ and don’t let anyone slow you down. If your best friend is holding you back, leave them! It sounds ruthless, but don’t worry as you’ll glaze over and think about the virgin snow you carved through when they’re moaning at you for leaving them behind.

Hike to a powder field

Earning your turns always makes them feel just that little bit more special. So forget the Cat and the Helicopter and walk for your powder. Whether it’s a quick hike from the top of a lift- or a full day on touring skis/split board, the self-satisfaction gained by standing above an untouched powder field, in the knowledge that only those prepared to put in the effort are to be rewarded with fresh powder turns, is unparalleled. There is also the thought, that by putting in all those lung busting uphill steps, you’re the only person to be in that exact spot at that exact time - it’s almost as if you own the very snow you’re about to trash. 

Après ski in Austria

No season, let alone a whole ski lifetime, is complete without at least one day partying in Austria. Whether it’s St Anton, Ischgl or Mayrhofen, an afternoon/evening in Austria will live long in the memory, sometime a little too long in your thumping hung-over head.  It normally starts, on mountain, around 3 ish, with umpapa music and Jagermeister/Red Bull shots, soon followed by sing a-longs and ski booted congas around the bar. A shout goes up, then everyone heads for the last gondola down. Back in the village, the party starts afresh, before most stumble back to their hotels for dinner - although you’ll often see party goers still in their ski boots into the wee small hours.