Heading off piste this season? Make sure you have all the equipment and more importantly the know-how to stay safe in the backcountry.

We all get it. That urge to venture a little further than the marked out pistes, that longing to carve beautiful turns into an untracked powder field you can see in the distance. It’s the main reason so many of us head to these remote mountainous locations around the world.

However, away from the safety of the pistes lies the constant danger of an avalanche, and in situations of heightened risk, there are certain precautions that must be taken. Whether you are just shooting between two blue runs or skinning for days from hut to hut, there are some key pieces of kit and valuable nuggets of knowledge can save lives in the backcountry.

Unfortunately there will never be such thing as zero risk off piste, however by utilising all of these essentials, the risk is significantly reduced.

1. On Your Person

The transceiver is the king of avalanche gear; you cannot head off piste without one of these.

The word transceiver is made up of two words mashed together: Transmitter and Receiver. In that respect it does what it says on the tin; when in transmit mode the beacon emits a strong radio signal, and when in receive mode, sometimes called search mode, it will detect the presence and strength of another signal. When in search mode a modern transceiver will often display the distance to the signal being received, as well as which direction it is coming from.

The Ski Club offers a transceiver hire service to it’s members, find out more here.

2. In Your Bag

Once you have got as close as you can with your transceiver, it’s time to break out your shovel and probe. If a transceiver is a king, these two are your queen and jack.

With a similar construction to a tent pole, a probe is used to poke through the snow until you feel something human textured. Once you have a better idea of the buried person’s location and also depth, then you use your shovel to dig them out. A backpack to carry your shovel and probe whilst providing easy access to them is essential here too.

In your bag you’ll also want a first aid kit and a mobile phone for use in emergencies.

More and more off piste skiers are now investing in airbag style avalanche systems. These backpacks have a rip chord similar to a parachute, which when pulled, blows up one or two airbags. This increases your surface area and helps you to stay above the densest of the avalanche debris. It should be noted that an airbag system is not a substitute for carrying a shovel probe and transceiver, nor is it a guarantee of safety.

For advice on all of the latest kit why not consult our member services team? Call 020 8410 2009 to get the answers to any of your equipment related questions.

3. In Your Head

It’s not just you that needs to know the essentials; it’s every member of your party.

In many cases avalanches can be avoided by avoiding avalanche prone areas and conditions. Almost all avalanches that have buried victims are set off by the rider themselves or a member of their party. Learning about certain slopes and aspects will hold snow in certain conditions is essential. The best way to learn about varying conditions and slopes is at an avalanche lecture, which take place throughout the UK and out in resort.

Knowing how to use all the flashy kit in your backpack is vital. There are correct techniques for everything, from learning how to set up your transceiver grid, to the most efficient way of digging in snow. These can all be learnt on courses before you leave home as well as in resort. Many resorts will have avalanche-training sites for you to hone your beacon skills and to check your transceivers before you set off on your day of skiing.

Before you arrive, and for the duration of your trip in resort check the weather bulletins and avalanche conditions. Speak to the ski patrol for some honest advice - they will be up to date with all the latest conditions and be able to warn you or potential hazards.

Check out the Ski Club's info and advice pages for more tips. To stay up to date with the latest conditions, check out our FREE weather app. Our historic snow records may come in handy too.

4. In Your Wallet

If unfortunately you do get injured when off piste, there are a number of costs involved with getting you off the mountain but also your treatment in hospital. To avoid a weighty credit card bill make sure you are covered by appropriate insurance.

Many winter sports policies will cover you for on piste riding only, so make sure you read the small print to make sure you are covered off piste if you are venturing away from the groomed runs. If you are riding off piste without a guide then this is often not covered, so be sure to mention this when buying.

Ski Club Insurance covers off piste skiing with and without a guide, including a FOGG Medi-Card. To find out more head to www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk, members save 15%!

5. In Your Group

We often hear the phrase “no friends on a powder day” but if there’s one time you really need them, it’s when you’re exploring the backcountry; by far the most effective form of avalanche rescue is companion rescue. Because of this, you should never ride alone.

There is nothing like a bit of local knowledge. Not only will a guide help you get your powder fix on the best snow, they will also know the safest zones and aspects for your group to lay tracks in to at that time. In addition to showing you all of the secret spots around resort, a guide will also help you with your technique and how to adapt it to different snow conditions, picking up tips that can only come from a season-hardened guide.

When hiring a guide you are often able to rent off piste equipment at the same time should you not have your own gear.

The Ski Club offers an Instructor Led Guiding service to its members in resort, alternatively why not enjoy a full week of guiding with a Ski Club Freshtracks holiday? If you’re looking for riding buddies when you're out in resort, join the Ski Club’s Facebook groups to link up with other members.