Avalanche Awareness & Safety

As news came out of Tignes today of another avalanche, we thought it was time to just take a minute to think about the current snow conditions and talk about staying safe for the rest of this winter.

 

Today, at 10.05am, an avalanche hit Tignes resort actually crossing the Carline piste. Initially it was thought that up to 30 people were swept up in it, with ski poles and equipment visible in the snow. Further investigation and searching by the secours de piste confirmed that whilst there were people caught in the snow slide, it was only small amount and they were only partially buried and quickly rescued.

Whilst this search was going on, the decision was taken to actually close the majority of the runs in Tignes whilst all personnel reported in to the site to assist in the search. There were around 300 people in total searching the entire area affected by this slide. This in itself shows just how seriously the local authorities are taking the current risks.

Photo courtesy of pisteurs secouristes de Val d'Isere
Photo courtesy of pisteurs secouristes de Val d’Isere

This comes just weeks after the fatal avalanche in Tignes took the lives of 4 skiers. Add to this, the multiple slides that have been reported around the Paradiski area – 5 skiers were caught in Les Arcs in the off piste area of  La Combe des Lanchettes just 3 days ago.  Fortunately with no injuries or fatalities being reported. It’s fair to say the mix of weather conditions this winter is adding up to some difficult conditions.

As of today, the snow fall in the past 48 hours in La Plagne has reached up to 100cms (and more in some areas!) and tomorrow the sun is scheduled to make a long awaited appearance! We all know what this means – early nights tonight and first tracks tomorrow morning right??

Photo courtesy of the Paradiski FB page
Photo courtesy of the Paradiski FB page

We don’t want to spoil everyone’s fun, but just a reminder of the current conditions:

  • Before the snowfall last week and this week, the snow pack was becoming very bare throughout the resort.
  • Temperatures have been very warm, resulting in ground temperatures being warmer than they should be. This means that the falling snow does not bond to the ground as it would if the ground was frozen.
  • Immediately after the snowfall last week the temperatures soared meaning the pow turned quickly to much heavier, wetter snow.
  • The wind!! It’s rare that resorts just don’t open! Yet, last Saturday, many lifts didn’t open until late in the day. This wind is going to have pushed snow into all sorts of places and piles that it might not usually be. These big drifts of snow are also sat on top of the unstable snow slab below. The wind lips are also building now, again making some unstable conditions.

So before you head out tomorrow morning to your usual off-piste haunt, just take a moment to think on whether it really is going to be safe or not. The current avalanche risk as rated by Meteo France is at 4. This basically means that avalanches are expected.

New Avalanche Risk

Some will be triggered by the safety teams (don’t you love the sound of the dynamite in the morning?!) and some will be ‘natural’ slides. As Henry’s Avalanche Talk say, a slope that has the potential to release, will not 95% of the time. But don’t test this stat out by being the victim of the 5%!

If you want to get out and make the most of the off piste, check out our top tips on how to do it safely!

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