Some things to consider before you head out into the powder
So far it’s been an epic start to the season, snow has been falling almost constantly for the last two weeks. If this continues we could be in store for some of the best conditions we’ve had in years. With this is mind it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of the dangers of avalanches and how we can reduce the risk of triggering one.
This is by no means a complete guide to avalanche safety, but more of a starting point to give you an idea of the things you should be considering before heading off piste.
- Mobile Phone – with local rescue numbers saved
- First Aid Kit
- Spare layers
Practice with your equipment
Make sure everyone who is riding knows how to use there equipment and if necessary take a couple hours to practice some avalanche drills.
Check the weather forecast
Compare multiple forecasts for your ski area and any updates from official websites.
Through the winter, Meteo France provides detailed avalanche bulletins for all major resorts in France. The App FatMap also gives a good indication of which slopes are in the potential avalanche risk range, however it does not guarantee they are safe.
Understand the danger ratings
The danger ratings are updated everyday and can be found online and are displayed at all the lift stations. If you’re unsure about anything talk to one of the local piste patrols who will be able to offer accurate and safe advice.
Know where you will be going
Have a good idea of the area and routes you’ll be taking (using maps, guide books and your personal experience) so you don’t end up stuck on a cliff. Keep an eye out for danger signs.
Choose your crew carefully
Ride with friends of a similar ability so that you can all be confident of the terrain you will be riding. You don’t want anyone getting left behind. A group size of 3 – 5 is ideal, these leaves enough people to help in an emergency but not too many, making it difficult to stay together.
Whilst out on the hill
Ski or board one at a time. If there is a slope that you are nervous about, only one person at a time should go onto the slope. Whether crossing, or going up or down, do so one at a time while all others act as eyes from a safe location. Should an avalanche occur, there will be only one victim and lots of rescuers
Avoid the centre of the slope. The greatest danger on any steep slope comes in the middle of it. Should an avalanche occur, there is no escape route. Avoid the centre of open slopes. Cross it at the very top or bottom. Go up it or down along the edges. These positions give a much better chance to escape
Stay on shallow slopes. Generally, it is possible to travel avalanche-free on slopes up to 25 degrees, and more than 95% of the time it is safe on slopes up to 30 degrees. To measure angles exactly, you can buy an inexpensive slope meter. However; be extra cautious wherever steeper slopes lie above shallow ones. Though avalanches won’t start on shallow slopes, it is possible that an avalanche could be triggered above, placing individuals in danger.