connect, grow & thrive.

Freeride skiing – do it safely

Once more the mountains showed their power this week when an avalanche in Engelberg claimed the life of a free boarder.

The virgin fresh white snow has an undeniable attraction to anyone who enjoys skiing but it goes without saying that you have to take precautions when you decide to go „off piste“ wherever you are. It isn‘t only avalanches that present danger, but also crevasses, ice slabs and rock bars.

Here are some valuable tips.

First check the weather and snow conditions. There is a European avalanche risk level standard. Starting at 1 (Gehring/Low) going to 5 /Sehr Gross / Extremely Likely) This week’s avalanche level was 3. („erheblich“ – significant).

Never go out on your own. Not only is there safety in numbers but should something happen having buddies who can pinpoint your location and/or dig you out of the snow is crucial.

Know the terrain. It is worth hiring a guide in a new area to show you the best routes to go down.

Get equipped. You will need an avalanche transceiver to be worn under your clothing, always on and in transmitter mode. That way, should you get buried, another rider can switch theirs to receiver mode and find you.

Know that after 15 minutes of being buried under an avalanche your chances of survival decrease dramatically.

You will need a probe and a shovel, this serves both to gauge the terrain beneath the snow and to help someone else out should something happen to them.

Invest in an avalanche airbag – ABS. This greatly enhances your chance of survival as it will prevent you from being buried too deep under the avalanche.

Definitely wear a helmet. Freeriding has added risks which really call for extra protection. A helmet and a back protector are essentials.


Finally if you are free riding in Switzerland then you should definitely make it a point to sign up to the REGA – the Swiss Air Ambulance. By definition free riding will mean that should anything happen to you the REGA will be called in. Starting at CHF 30.- it seems a no brainer to support them. Here is their video showing what they offer:

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Living in Luzern organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.