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Mickeys Ears Avalanche -Tignes 28/02/15

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Just got back from a week in Val d'isere / Tignes and was forwarded this video by a friend. https://vimeo.com/120889019

We were due to ski Mickey's Ear the day before but the guides decided against it due to the new snow and general instability of the snow pack.

Glad that we didn't.!
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The Ragnaroks broke the mountain Shocked

That chap has a loooong hike out of there without skis.
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Well sh*t, that didn't look fun. Good of example of the washing machine like effect of avalanches.

Any views on whether the guy would've stood a chance of avoiding getting caught if he'd gone hard skiers left when the first cracks broke at 0:24? It looked like he carried on turning in to the centre of the couloir and then got swept away. Not saying presence of mind to do that is straightforward (maybe not even possible), but if he'd done that could he have avoided it?
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@ChrisWo, that was my thought, but I guess as soon as you start to move with the snow there is little gravity to move your skis. Luckily lad.
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bloody hell
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ChrisWo, if he was aware it was any avy by that first crack, then yes, a hard stop to the left might have meant not sliding with the avalanche. I reckon he didn't realise it was any avy until it was too late. First crack appears at 00:22. At 00:26, he's still going "woohoo", so perhaps he thought it was only slough at that stage? By 00:29, when he's finished the turn, he's already caught.

Very, lucky chap indeed!
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Bod wrote:
..We were due to ski Mickey's Ear the day before but the guides decided against it due to the new snow and general instability of the snow pack.

Sounds like you had a good guide.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Just back from Ste Foy , the guide I use who is very well respected throughout the area , is not skiing anything above 35% , says its suicide . good advice I think .
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I did wonder about going hard left as well. But if this was Saturday 28th it just goes to show that Avalanche Risk 2 can still mean that locally it can be very dangerous - probably a good advert for an airbag.
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If he hadn't dropped in and attacked the slope and instead put a few cautious first turns it he might have either not set it off, or released it but in a 'safer' way.
it shows to me free-rider arrogance to drop in so hard on a steep couloir like that, this season and a lack of respect for the mountain and a lack of knowledge of conditions. i hope i'm wrong about his knowledge, but many free riders don't have all that much, they just want big fast turns! i don't have the greatest knowledge. when i skied a steep couloir 2 weeks ago that I knew had probably only be skied 5 times this season we discussed our plan of action in detail before we went, i dropped in very cautiously and enjoyed the whole ski, even if it was slow.
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ChrisWo wrote:
Well sh*t, that didn't look fun. Good of example of the washing machine like effect of avalanches.

Any views on whether the guy would've stood a chance of avoiding getting caught if he'd gone hard skiers left when the first cracks broke at 0:24? It looked like he carried on turning in to the centre of the couloir and then got swept away. Not saying presence of mind to do that is straightforward (maybe not even possible), but if he'd done that could he have avoided it?


I don't think so. I don't think he realised it was any more than sluff from the previous turn until he'd already made the right hand turn, but there's quite a bit of snow pouring off the rock band to his left at that point too.

Probably if he'd pointed it as soon as it broke he'd have had enough speed to stay ahead of it and cut out to the side when it opens up further down, but unless you've skied the line before and know the it well it would take quite a lot of balls to point...
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impressive go-pro mount. Shocked
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Quote:

If he hadn't dropped in and attacked the slope and instead put a few cautious first turns it he might have either not set it off, or released it but in a 'safer' way.

it shows to me free-rider arrogance to drop in so hard on a steep couloir like that, this season and a lack of respect for the mountain and a lack of knowledge of conditions. i hope i'm wrong about his knowledge, but many free riders don't have all that much, they just want big fast turns! i don't have the greatest knowledge. when i skied a steep couloir 2 weeks ago that I knew had probably only be skied 5 times this season we discussed our plan of action in detail before we went, i dropped in very cautiously and enjoyed the whole ski, even if it was slow.




But you still had no idea of it would slide or not, fast turns slow turns you cant predict the future so stop being so righteous and be happy it didn't,
rolling eyes
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Quote:
We were due to ski Mickey's Ear the day before but the guides decided against it due to the new snow and general instability of the snow pack.


Quote:
it just goes to show that Avalanche Risk 2 can still mean that locally it can be very dangerous - probably a good advert for an airbag.


Airbag or not, statistically, it's risk 2/3 days that account for most incidents.
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geeo wrote:
so stop being so righteous


righteous about 'safe' skiing practises? sorry!
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moffatross wrote:
Quote:
We were due to ski Mickey's Ear the day before but the guides decided against it due to the new snow and general instability of the snow pack.


Quote:
it just goes to show that Avalanche Risk 2 can still mean that locally it can be very dangerous - probably a good advert for an airbag.


Airbag or not, statistically, it's risk 2/3 days that account for most incidents.


Ski de Randonnée (stats ANENA)
45% par risque 3
29% par risque 4
16% par risque 2

Ski hors-piste :
46% par risque 3
43% par risque 4
7% par risque 2
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Quote:

righteous about 'safe' skiing practises? sorry!



what's safe about it? just because you think he dropped in too hard and your bambi like efforts would have seen you down 'safe' that means nothing, lol and you have the nuts to call him arrogant Shocked
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Thanks, davidof. The given wisdom on each of the safety courses I've attended is that there are more avalanche incidents on risk 2/3 days than on risk 4/5 days. I think that you're confirming my statement ?
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Jeez, if there's one thing that does need a Bambi like effort it's what to post judging by some people's responses
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moffatross wrote:
Thanks, davidof. The given wisdom on each of the safety courses I've attended is that there are more avalanche incidents on risk 2/3 days than on risk 4/5 days. I think that you're confirming my statement ?


What you say is true.
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Quote:

Sounds like you had a good guide.


We did. caution was the word for the whole week. We generally kept under 30 degrees and only skied areas that had been previously skied a lot. The guide dug a pit and showed us that the persistent weak layer is still there. If they had any doubt about a slope the default option was not to ski it. Must say that I really appreciated the effort that was made to educate us and understand the risk analysis being performed before we went into any where new.
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pam w wrote:
impressive go-pro mount. Shocked


+1 my thoughts indeed.
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It's some time since I skied Mickey's Ears but I do remember after climbing up to it then you had no option but to drop into it from the entry point.

I suspect therefore that the skier was not being overly aggressive, but simply doing what was necessary to get into the route.
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The chap who runs the Chamonix Avalanche Academy made an intersting comment. Said that if the skier had just made one turn and waited, rather than committing 100%, he would have been able to let it slough out ahead of him.

As an aside, since when have we adopted the American spelling of slough (sluff)?
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I only follow guides, but a guide would put a big ski cut (an edge check) eight at the top.
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The best lessons are the ones you get away with, glad he's alright
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philwig wrote:
I only follow guides, but a guide would put a big ski cut (an edge check) eight at the top.

Although, in this instance, a whole lot of turns by the first person down didn't trigger anything. So, the lesson here is that each person should put in a big ski cut and then wait for a bit before proceeding?
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Zero_G wrote:
philwig wrote:
I only follow guides, but a guide would put a big ski cut (an edge check) eight at the top.

Although, in this instance, a whole lot of turns by the first person down didn't trigger anything. So, the lesson here is that each person should put in a big ski cut and then wait for a bit before proceeding?


I think it was his first big turn (to the left) that he uses to bleed off the speed that punched down to the weak layer and triggered the slab. There is something to be said for skiing a couloir at speed down the center line. There is evidence of wind on the left hand side and to the right. These couloirs that start in a funnel often have slabs in them as the configuration leads to snow accumulation, they then channel all that snow into a twisting gulley.

You would have to read the bulletin in detail to see whether there was anything to raise alarms that day, my recollection was of the risk of small slabs on ridge lines and summits but as Werner Munther says "a small slab is tons and tons of snow". There was about 30km/h winds from the N on the 27th but no fresh snow. There seems to be a bit of snow build up at the lip but no real cornice.

I wouldn't rely too much on guides slope cutting, look at the Foglietta avalanche this year. A slope cut might take out the slab, it might take the skier with it, it might not but it might weaken the anchors enough that the 3 or 5th person triggers the slab. I'm not sure the funnel configuration is conducive to slope cutting as there is too much risk of the slope taking you with it.


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 5-03-15 13:10; edited 1 time in total
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davidof, reading your post makes me realise just how little I know and understand and just how much I still have to learn.
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Zero_G wrote:
davidof, reading your post makes me realise just how little I know and understand and just how much I still have to learn.


Remember that amongst the 30 avalanche deaths in France this season practically everyone of them was experienced or a pro, or skiing with a pro. In one guided group the guide didn't even check the avalanche beacons himself, result, one skier without a beacon killed after spending 90 minutes under the snow. A lot of ski tourers killed, you know, the old fogeys who say all the problems are down to young freeriders like in the video.
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davidof, I get that but I do still have a lot to learn. No biggie, I've got time and the will.
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davidof is there any resource where you can go and review an analysis of avalanches and what, if anything, 'went wrong'?
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@8611, the Austrians publish a big magazine/book every year detailing every single avalanche incident (involving people) in Austria. They give it out fere at trade shows like the Alpinmesse in Innsbruck, but you could try emailing the UK branch of the Austrian Alpine Club to try and get hold of a copy. It's in German though.
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I have reasonable german but have tried in the past unsuccessfully to read avalanche reports in newspapers so no joy I'm afraid, thanks for suggestion though
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Quote:

davidof, reading your post makes me realise just how little I know and understand and just how much I still have to learn.


Agreed. Particularly scary as I know I don't have the balls to hit the centre line and would be scrubbing speed or all I was worth in big sharp turns in that kind of situation.
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This is how to get into the avalanche:
1. never check for windblown slab snow
2. never cut the slope
3. place your mates so that they cannot see what happening with you
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@ed48, perhaps you would care to read the post by davidofabove, wherein he states that
Quote:
amongst the 30 avalanche deaths in France this season practically everyone of them was experienced or a pro, or skiing with a pro

!
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8611 wrote:
davidof is there any resource where you can go and review an analysis of avalanches and what, if anything, 'went wrong'?


Snowy Torrents book for the US but I don't know if there is a recent version and Chance in a Million for Scotland, again a bit dated I think.

For france the ANENA publishes a few accounts online in French

http://www.anena.org/5108-.htm

they have hundreds in their stock though but don't seem to make them generally available.
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Those pitches before you get to Mickeys Ears are not that often skied. You can't see it from the video but there is a roll over 20 metres or so after the entrance and unless you've skied it before (which these guys obviously all have) you would be very cautious going in cos it looks like it is going to fall away from you and be way more rocky than it is.

He can't have seen the first cracks and I'm sure the slab would have missed him if he'd stopped on the left.

I'd say they'd all skied it before in similar conditions and their error was not taking a guide who MIGHT have dismissed the route as too risky and turned back and gone to the familial. They look like a team of seasoned seasonaires. On a seasonaires' wage they couldn't afford a guide for every bluebird powder day. They accepted a certain risk level which a guide would not have accepted. I think they'll be a shade more cautious in the future which i hope is filled with many more but less eventful bluebird powder days to come Madeye-Smiley Madeye-Smiley

Free guides for seasonaires???


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 22-04-15 20:11; edited 1 time in total
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Not that I would ever consider trying a route like this, the fact that most deaths occur on 2/3 rather than 4/5 days doesn't say anything about the relative risks between the different categories. This is a "denominator fallacy" (I think- it's 30 years since I did stats at college so I'm open to being shot don!)
Basically we would need to adjust for variables such as the relative frequency of each category and relative number of skiers willing to ski on each day.
It may not therefore be surprising that such a high proportion of fatalities occur on "lower" risk days, or that most fatalities are in experienced/guide led groups (as they are most likely to be on the riskier routes).
This doesn't though exclude the explanation that like earthquakes avalanches events aren't open to any sensible prediction regardless of the skill and experience of the skier.
Sorry had to lob that in Madeye-Smiley
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