Freeride Maps: Off-Piste and Backcountry Skiing in Switzerland and Austria

If you’re heading on a ski trip to Austria or Switzerland and you don’t want to spend the entire time carving groomers or getting lost on unmarked off-piste runs, pick up a new Freeride Map, which will show you where to find the steeps, powder, glaciers, and more.
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Freeride Maps

A group of Swiss freeskiers have put together Freeride Maps, detailed guides to skiing off-piste and backcountry terrain at some of Switzerland and Austria’s rowdiest resorts. Using official topography maps from the Swiss Federal Office of Topography and the Austrian Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying, the Freeride Maps show you the location of everything from aerial trams, to natural ditches and contours, to fences, railroad tracks, and power lines. The map, which is made from thick, waterproof material, is color coded to indicate easier, advanced, and extremely difficult terrain. It also marks severe avalanche threat areas, elevations, wildlife protection zones (where skiing isn’t allowed), and inclines.

You can buy them for resorts in Switzerland, including St. Moritz, Lötschental, Anniviers, Zermatt, Engelberg, Verbier, Disentis, Andermatt, and Davos. Each map costs about $25, or you can buy the whole Swiss package, which includes 12 maps for about $250. Austria maps include Arlberg and Ischgl/Samnaun. More Austria destinations will be available in October. Get them at www.freeride-map.com or ski shops and book stores in the Alps.

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In 1907, Hannes Schneider was hired as a ski instructor in Austria’s Arlberg region, four ski areas spread over six villages.  There, he began developing the Arlberg technique: the modern-day parallel turn.  Over the next few years, Schneider smashed the notion of skiing as cautious step turns.  It became about speed and flow.  And the Arlberg began drawing skiers who wanted to experience it for themselves.  Little has changed.  Since 1999, Swedish photographer Mattias Fredriksson has shot in the Arlberg at least once a year.  He goes for the suffocating powder, narrow tree fields, and cliff-dotted terrain.  But he also goes to pay respects to the tracks laid down before him.  “Hannes Schneider showed people from all around the world the parallel turn,” says Fredriksson.  “I skied with Pep Fujas, Henrik Windstedt, and Sean Pettit in the same area he taught in.  that was pretty cool for me.”  The photos that follow, all of them Fredriksson’s, are a tribute to the area, its history, and skiing as we know it. Pictured: Stina Jakobsson above the village of Zug.

St. Anton, Austria

Inbounds descents down powderfields up to five miles long dump you in the middle of the Tyrolean frescoes and church steeples of a too-cute ski village.

From the top of Verbier's 10,900-foot Mont Font, the highest point at the ski area, you can access some of the steepest, hairest terrain you'll find anywhere on the planet. At the end of the season, they host speed skiing competitions on the groomer from the top of the Mont Font tram—and it's steep gradient made it the fastest ski run in Switzerland when Italian skier Simone Origone got going over 134 miles per hour there in 2007.

Verbier, Switzerland: 10 Reasons to Visit

In case you need a reason to visit Verbier, Switzerland, we've got 10 of them—ranging from the powder to the cheese to the Swiss chalets. Plus, it's the home of the Verbier XTreme competition, which is taking place this weekend.

$435 We love the Marker Baron so much that we borrowed a fleet of them from Marker to mount on all of our backcountry test skis. When the Baron's predecessor, the DIN-16 Duke, debuted in 2007, it was the only alpine-touring binding that truly skied like a real alpine binding. Word spread, and shops literally could not keep it stocked. Marker released the Baron in 2008. It has the same alpine-style performance as the Duke—solid, secure, and confidence-inspiring—but is 150 grams lighter (thanks to the use of nylon instead of magnesium), and $60 less expensive. And with a DIN range of four through 12, it's more of an everyman's binding. If you're skiing the resort most of the time, but want touring capability for occasional side- and backcountry laps, you won't find a better binding.

Backcountry Bindings

Whether you're going on a day-long tour or just heading out the gates, you need a binding that works as well going uphill as it does going down. Here is a collection of some of the best AT and telemark bindings out there.