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Off-Piste? More sound advice...

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
... from david at www.pistehors.com

Making off-piste areas safer ....
http://www.pistehors.com/comments/214_0_1_0_C/

and getting the message through to young people - don't reply on avalanche warnings, beware sudden changes in conditions, carry the right equipment....
http://www.pistehors.com/comments/215_0_1_0_C/
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
PG: interesting info. And scarey. 2 comments:

1. I was astonished to read in 215_0_1_0_C/ "In the search for someone to blame, surely Météo France has to take some responsibility?" I thought we all accpted skiing had risks. I disagree with the increasing habit of finding others to blame for our own misfortunes. Blaming the weather forecast seems crazy to me.

2. Reports such as these give the impression off-piste is dangerous. I wonder if off-piste is not actually safer. I do not have statistics (maybe sherman-maier can help) but I get the impression most accidents happen on piste and are caused by collisions (or near collisions) between skiers/boarders. Off piste is rarely crowded and lacks beginners. I think it safer - any opinions?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I only ski off-piste if I can - only using pistes to get to or from off piste. However, I only go on properly led off-piste holidays, and carry all the right safety equipment. This type of skiing away from it all, is no comparison to crowded pistes, especially the final run down in the afternoon.
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Jonpim wrote:
I do not have statistics (maybe sherman-maier can help)


No idea, the site I looked at for the helmets is called Medecins de Montagne and their figures didn't give any breakdown... or they only looked at resort skiing.

Still there must be far fewer people doing off-piste then on-piste, don't you think? Certainly when I've been skiing during school holiday time the pistes are always very busy.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Jonpin, while surely less crowded, the risks to have soemone above you unleash an avalanche (unwillingly of course) is not to forget. This has happened at least twice in the past seasn and once (iirc) this season in Italy and has caused quite a stir, as you can imagine.
The difference is that, in skiing off piste, we all must excert more caution, and as steveb, I only ski offpiste if led by a guide who knows the environment.
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Matteo, I understand off-piste is full of hidden dangers. But that fact may make many of us more careful. I'm informed by instructors that a common injury event involves an experineced skier who has just completed a difficult off-piste run, rejoins the piste, relaxes and falls over or gets hit.

Also, are there not really 2 types of off-piste? For want of better terms: Between piste off-piste, and Up-to-the-top-and-over-the-back off-piste. Between piste is usually quiet, safe from avalanches and lots of fun - no guide needed. If going Up-to-the-top-and-over-the-back then it would be foolish to venture without a guide.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Thu 26-02-04 13:05; edited 1 time in total
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
You can't be too careful - traversing round to ski off-piste between/ to the side of pistes, can still hide rocks you can't see from above, small cliffs, etc. Then there's the avalanche risk - and not to mention whether you are insured off-piste.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Steveb, I understand from instructor friend that (in France, anyway) pistes are not opened unless the adjacent off-piste is also avalanche-safe, coz the pisty-people know we are going to venture off to the side looking for the virgin stuff.

I agree you must make sure insured for off-piste. Crazy policy if not included - what happens if you lose control, ski off piste by mistake and get injured? And all those little jumps the kids love are just off piste? And short tree-route detours? Skiing should be fun. Fun usually means some risk. Just a question of balance.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
I spend a lot of my time off piste - I'm no 'wildman of the backcountry' U understand; I just prefer to take my own route down the hill. I know, though, at times U only need to be 3m one way or the other to make the difference between a comfortable descent and disaster.
I don't like 'picking my way' carefully down a slope, but I'm guessing I wouldn't like being dead either rolling eyes So, if I identify a good hill, I put time into learning it, scoping it out from every direction I can: pistes around it, nearby lifts, taking extra cautious routes at first to build up what I hope will be a good 3D model of it in my head. I've spent 2-3 days getting to know, exclusively, one small face of a mountain, then it's snowed heavily and I've realised I still hardly know it at all.
Is this all obvious? Well, I think it really ought to be if U ski off piste much.

The thing is that people spend week upon week in lessons nurturing their ski technique until they feel able to tackle the more challenging terrain. By this time, whether by direct instruction or by general osmosis, a healthy respect for the mountain and an awareness of the risks should have developed.

Snowboarding on the other hand is so much less technical and the culture around it so much less inclined toward the formality of lessons - it's not unheard of for the more 'daring' beginner to be way off the piste with his mates by the end of his first week.

Please don't think I'm presenting a skiing v's boarding issue, I'm not. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that snowboarding as a young culture does not reliably educate its initiates to the risks they will face before they acquire the ability to encounter those risks.

It's not inconceivable that the poor chap in that article learnt more during the course of his snowboarding career about music, fashion and drinking than he did about mountain safety.

Should there have been markers warning of the danger?...
"Why do U think xxxx jumped in front of that London bus?"
"Oh he didn't look and thought it was just a small dog coming!"
"perhaps all buses should be painted red to indicate they are dangerous."
I think it's pretty damn obvious, "Don't jump off a cliff if U don't know what's on the other side!".

The generous side of me wants to lament his naivety Little Angel - The rest of me is more tempted to mock his stupidity Twisted Evil .
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I have never seen it, but do boarders ever use guides. I suppose it would need to be guides on boards.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
U, the boy's parents are very experienced skiers, and from what I understand, they taught their 2 sons to enjoy snowsports from a very young age. I also gather that they were encouraged to go out and enjoy their skiing without wishing to tie them too much to the "apron strings".

I would be amazed if the young guy wasn't aware of the dangers, but in a moment of hot headedness, how many of us have done something that in the cold light of day we've regretted, and castigated ourselves for being so stupid?

It was a tragic accident and if I had to say one way or the other a stupid mistake, although the term "mock his stupidity" seems rather aggressive considering the outcome. After all, as I have said, the area he was boarding in seemed quite benign, given the amount of activity there had obviously been.

Unfortunately for one of the fellow skiers, the son of one of my friends/work colleagues, there is an inquest and he will have to recount the whole episode again.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Quite agree Mark. We all do lots of stupid things, but get away with it most of the time. All that separates us from tragedy is luck.


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Thu 26-02-04 16:49; edited 1 time in total
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Jonpim wrote:
Quite agree Mark. We all do lots of stupid thinks, but get away with it most of the time. All that separates us from tragedy is luck.
and good judgement..... or perhaps; "all that separates us from tragedy is good judgement, with a touch of luck mixed in"??
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
u brain, You're a wise guy. If ever you're unfortunate enough to get caught out, it'll be 100% down to bad luck. And in the meantime you'll be getting just as many thrills as the less cautious, I'm sure.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I was on the Grande Motte glacier before christmas this year and underneath the Leisse chair you could see huge crevasses only 20 meters from the side of a marked run. The widest had a small rope across some of its length just above it.
Two days later they were covered with what must of been the smallest of snow bridges, and people were obliviously skiing over them.
From the same lift you could see the shadow of the crevasses. Shocked
Local knowledege is extremely important. I would never ski without a guide unless I'd seen the slope in the summer....
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Jonpim wrote > 1. I was astonished to read in 215_0_1_0_C/ "In the search for someone to blame, surely Météo France has to take some responsibility?"

David of www.pistehors.com responds:
"The quote is a bit out of context. I took this comment from discussions on French websites. I was asking the question in my article, then saying no we shouldn't really rely on Météo France. There are obviously questions to be asked (and being asked I would add) by the people at Météo France after last weekend's accidents as to how they can improve reporting."

Jonpim wrote > 2. Reports such as these give the impression off-piste is dangerous. I wonder if off-piste is not actually safer. I do not have statistics (maybe sherman-maier can help) but I get the impression most accidents happen on piste and are caused by collisions (or near collisions) between skiers/boarders. Off piste is rarely crowded and lacks beginners. I think it safer - any opinions?

David replies : "I kind of see the point but the consequences of an off-piste accident are generally greater. What do you want? A painful knee or to be dead?

Personally I'm not comfortable with the distinction between well, you know, just a bit off piste and well quite a lot of off-piste. As you know the ski domains (again I talk only about France) have a responsibility for the safety of skiers on the open runs. This means that obstacles such as rocks must be clearly marked and the area secured from avalanche risk. This will mean clearing slopes above pistes which will in turn mean those slopes are safe but it doesn't mean the whole off-piste area within the ski domain is safe.

Every year there are fatal avalanches close to the pistes. Places like Tignes are particuarly bad as there are lots of terrain traps where even a small slide could bury someone. There are lots of other obstacles, tree wells, cliffs, cables, wolves Smile
If you look at this article:

http://www.pistehors.com/comments/122_0_1_0_C/
The girl who died was right beside the piste. The piste (open that day) is right where the searchers are looking.
Fred Laugier took some good shots, here's a closer view where you can see the piste marker:
"http://frederic.laugier.free.fr/tmp15/TN_09%20Zoom%20sur%20le%20panneau.JPG"

Here are a couple more examples. Obviously these people were really unlucky but sometimes the off-piste areas in a ski domain don't have pistes on them because they are dangerous and you are actually at less risk far from the ski domain.
http://www.pistehors.com/comments/118_0_1_0_C/

http://www.pistehors.com/comments/102_0_1_0_C/

This is an illustrative photo:
http://mapage.noos.fr/pistehors/images/avalanche/avoidance/avoidance11.jpg

The people below the ski lift on the left are probing for bodies. People often think skiing below the lifts is safe because the snow is anchored by the pylons. In fact, if you can ski it, it can avalanche."
PG David will hopefully be a new recruit to snowHeads himself soon - he's a fount of knowledge on the subject....
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
markP wrote:
I was on the Grande Motte glacier before christmas this year and underneath the Leisse chair you could see huge crevasses only 20 meters from the side of a marked run. The widest had a small rope across some of its length just above it.
Two days later they were covered with what must of been the smallest of snow bridges, and people were obliviously skiing over them.
From the same lift you could see the shadow of the crevasses. Shocked
Local knowledege is extremely important. I would never ski without a guide unless I'd seen the slope in the summer....

Took this photo early November.... ring any bells ?!
http://bsm.alpesprovence.net/tignes1.htm
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Hmm, must have been a little more snow by the time i got there!
From memory thats off to the side of rosolin isn't it?
Great pictures PG. Who's the kid in the racing shots. One of yours?
Showing great style there.
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markP, ... Taken from the téléphérique on the way up.... and yes - whopped all but one of the locals in the Tignes super G Madeye-Smiley
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Excellent! You must be very proud.
Is he or she going to be in the GB ski team or the French?
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
markP, check out the last part of the 'Flying Kilometre' thread, have just been having this exact same discussion!!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Doh! I'll head over there then. Too many threads sooo little time...
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
The reply from David at pisthors.com is very interesting and thought-provoking. I assumed, like many others, that it is safe to ski underneath chair lifts through the trees. Also that it is normally safe a few metres off the piste. Of course most of the time it is, but is it worth the risk?
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
PG: lots of scarey stuff. Never a bad idea to remind us that mountains are dangerous places.

However I note in http://www.pistehors.com/comments/122_0_1_0_C/ that "A group of 12 skiers, accompanied by a guide and a ski instructor were involved." and "Eye witnesses claimed that the avalanche was set off by the passage of two snowboarders above the skiers". Conclusion:
1. Even a guide and instructor does not guarantee your safety (but safer than no guide at all)
2. There is little you can do to protect against the unfortunate actions of others
3. Avalanches kill

I put in the last conclusion as though most of us have had lessons how to ski, few (including me) have any knowledge of how to survive the worst the mountain can throw at us. So, what should I do if caught in an avalanche? What should I do if a fellow skier gets caught? Am I irresponsible going off-piste without this knowledge?
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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If you get caught in an avalanche prayer might be as good as anything though if you can get into a ball shape with your arms in front of your face it might help, when the avalance stops it tends to set like concrete so if you have no air in front of your face you suffocate, If you see a fellow skier caught and it is safe for you to watch try to keep track of where they are and note the place you saw them for the last time, this can save a lot of time in a search, I think I read that if the persons are not found in the first 15 mins their chances of survival drop rapidly.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Jonpim, Personally I'm not even close to being able to read the conditions well enough to venture off-piste without a guide or at the very least an expert with local knowledge. And as David says, the line between being 'just' off-piste (beside a piste) and genuine 'miles from anywhere' off-piste skiing is unclear. I realised this last year when off snow-shoeing in some innocent looking hills in the Vercors (SW of Grenoble) while the kids were doing some cross-country skiing. I climbed barely a couple of hundred metres (distance, not altitude) from the road, tried to traverse a steepish bit in an attempt to take a shortcut back to the bistrot, and putting my left foot down a large slab shot off and rumbled down the incline. The 10cms of wet snow that had fallen overnight on hardpack was completely unstable. My right uphill snowshoe was still holding so I gingerly took a few more steps. The same thing happened again. I was completely stuck, no one in sight, and feeling bl**dy stupid - and not a little scared. Eventually I realised that the surface area of the snowshoe wasn't helping matters, took them both off, and slowly, managed to make my way back down.

As for equipment - well if you're on your own (which you shouldn't be) it's virtually useless. Although they've developed these backpack self-inflating airbags that are supposed to help keep you on the surface of an avalanche should you get caught. And there's always a chance that you'd be crushed to death before you have a chance to suffocate - sorry, but that's the way it is! But when skiing off-piste in groups David's site gives details of all the equipment you need... eg transceivers (all set to transmit so that if anyone's buried the others can switch to search mode and try to locate him/her quickly), two-way radios, mobile phones, probes, shovels... but first and foremost, instruction from genuine experts, and using professional guides for as long as it takes to really know what you are doing!. (Oh, and if you do decide to go off somewhere, tell someone where you're going.)
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
DGO, you are quite right about the crtitical 15 minutes. I hadn't heard about rolling up into a ball before, but did know the importance of making sure there was room around the chest to breath and a space in front of the face for air.

PG: my simple rule for just-off-piste is: can you see the piste and can you be seen? If not, get a guide.

Does anyone run a course for avalanche drill? I've worn bleepers, but don't really know how they work, and don't know if I would be any help in finding someone buried. Never been shown how to use the transceiver, or how to use a probe. I'd prefer to think I could be useful.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Sunday School for you lot ....

Avalanche course is on Sundays, powder skiing (from complete beginner to expert every other day of the week).

http://skimountaineering.com/off_piste.htm

Please mention me to Graham and let him know from me that he's a soft lad for using the blankett on the Stuben lift.


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Thu 26-02-04 23:08; edited 1 time in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
it's really an irrelavent point but it might help give some breathing space, at one time I read something that suggested trying to swim in th eavelanche which might I guess work in a slow moveing one but if you get hit by (rather than start) a powder avalanche you may as well stick to prayer it has as much chance of working as anything else, remember those travel at up to 200kph or even more and have sufficien force to destroy any building unless its made of reinforced concrete, what chance the human body verses one of those ?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Thanks DB. I've never been to St Anton, so maybe now I will give it a try. And if I find St Anton not to my taste, I see Skimountaineering can show me the delights of skiing in Alaska, Greenland, Russia and the Himalayas. Now that's what I call off-piste!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Jonpim,
Tell Graham (and Tom his sidekick) that he can't keep skiing powder all winter in St Anton and then scoot off to Alaska, Greenland etc in the spring then rock climb all summer. Tell him DB said he should get a proper job and stop slackin'. Mad
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