By Vanessa Hackman
The Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) have officially announced that the flags signaling the level of avalanche risk in French ski resorts are gradually being replaced by new pictograms. Within three years, you will no longer see the three flags- yellow, checkered yellow and black, and black, that currently indicate the level of avalanche risk in French ski resorts.
The new pictograms correspond to five risk levels: from 1 (weak) to 5 (very strong). “Each pictogram is colour coded and has a clear informative message on the importance and the extent of the risks” explains AFNOR. Each message is translated into English, German, Italian, Catalan and Dutch. Most European countries already use this system of pictograms.
Until now, there were only three levels of risk at French ski resorts. But “the level 3 that everyone knows in the form of yellow and black checkered flag was too trivialized,” says Serge Riveill, in charge of the ski areas of France. “In the last ten years, almost half of off-piste accidents have occurred during an episode of risk 3″ adds Serge Riveill.
“The yellow and black checkered flag was too trivialised” – Serge Riveill
The new avalanche risk information system has already been tested between February and April 2016 in a dozen alpine resorts in France. AFNOR indicates that 75% of people find the new pictograms more readable than the flag system.
Avalanches result in an average of thirty deaths per year. The winter season 2014-2015 was particularly deadly, with 45 deaths- the heaviest record in France since 2006, recalls Météo-France.
Read our top tips for advice on how to stay safe when venturing off-piste.