Off-Piste Snowboarding Techniques

Updated January 24, 2020

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a snowboarder on the snow

The allure of carving turns down powdery untracked slopes draws many snowboarders to off-piste (un-groomed) terrain. Two techniques that will help you navigate the steep slopes and deep snow often found in off-piste terrain include:

  • Nose rolls
  • Leapers

In addition to these skills, it’s essential to have the proper training and equipment to travel safely if you leave the boundaries of a ski area. Learn more: Backcountry Travel in Winter.

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What is Off-Piste?

The term off-piste comes from French and is commonly used by skiers and snowboarders to describe terrain that’s off the groomed trails. While exploring off-piste terrain, you can encounter a wide variety of snow conditions and terrain features, including deep snow, crud, bumps, steep slopes and narrow chutes.

You’ll sometimes hear skiers and snowboarders use the term off-piste interchangeably with backcountry to describe terrain that’s outside the boundaries of a resort.

Off-Piste Snowboarding Essentials

If you’re venturing outside the boundaries of a ski resort and into the backcountry to access off-piste terrain, you need to consider the risks.

Avalanche safety: Avalanches are a real concern in some off-piste terrain and it’s essential that you be properly trained. At a minimum, it’s recommended that you take a level one avalanche course certified by The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) before heading into the backcountry. Learn more about avalanche awareness and find an avalanche safety class.

Get the gear: The must-have gear for each and every backcountry explorer in your group is an avalanche transceiver, snow shovel and probe. Knowing how to use this gear is equally as important as having it, so practice before you go. Also consider an avalanche airbag backpack that can help keep you on the surface of the snow during an avalanche. For more details, see our article about Avalanche Safety Gear.


How to Nose Roll

Nose roll turns are great for hard snow, steeps, bumps and crud. They’re especially great for situations where you might feel like you’re in over your head so you want to turn your snowboard around on a dime.

Video: Snowboarding: How to Nose Roll


Nose Roll Technique:

  • Even weight: Flex your knees and weight each foot evenly.
  • Unweight the tail: To turn the snowboard on the nose, you need to unweight the tail and rotate around your front foot.
  • Land low: As you finish the turn, land low with your knees flexed. 

How to do a Leaper 

A leaper is a technique that’s used to change edges while your snowboard is off the ground. It’s a great tactic to use to get through soft snow and down steep terrain.

Video: Snowboarding: How to Do a Leaper

Leaper Technique:

  • Initiate: Get low and flex your ankles, knees and hips.
  • Pop up: To initiate your turn, pop up and extend your legs to lift your snowboard off the snow. While the board is in the air, tilt the board slightly to switch the edge that you’ll land on.
  • Landing: As the new edge comes into contact with the snow, flex down to make for a nice soft landing so you can finish carving the turn and ride out smoothly without putting too much impact on your body.