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School Kids caught in avalanche on closed piste

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@Claude B, sending you a hug
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@Hurtle, Thanks Happy
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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35310760

BBC report on the investigation that will undoubtedly begin soon...

Claude, big hugs. We've been to LDA several times and are back out in 3 weeks - I imagine it will send a shiver up the spine when we pass that run...
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@Claude B, thanks for the insight and your account ... extremely sombre indeed. Thoughts and prayers with all those affected, the rescue teams, pisteurs etc. RIP
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@Claude B,

You will represent all of us that can not be there in person, but I'm sure you heart is big enough to carry the sympathies from all us snowheads.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Thu 14-01-16 16:10; edited 1 time in total
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I've been in resorts before when there have been large avalanches with fatalities. This one is very different though. I almost live here, it could have been me a day earlier, I witnessed the scene and I have several friends who were directly involved in the search. Antoine's (pisteur friend who lives in same building as me) face portrayed so much when he walked into the bar straight from the mountain at 11.

Will certainly represent SH's later.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Thu 14-01-16 15:56; edited 2 times in total
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@franga, @HeidiAmsterdam, agreed
@Claude B, thank you
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@Claude B, please do take our thoughts with you too. Such a tragic loss. I'm sure it will be an emotional and difficult event later today.
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@Claude B, thank you.
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I think this is different because children were involved. It is well known that teenagers are physically able to do all an adult does, but lacks judgement and sensibilities, so we send our children out and entrust them to an adult, and this happens....

It is like we don't expect teenagers to possess the judgement to refrain from such an activity, so we feel sad to see the lights turned off on bright futures. And don't underestimate the impact of the survivors, and the community.

I have two teenagers, and we've already talked about this. We do the odd bit just off the piste, or a trail through the trees, but I know their abilities, and they are perfectly able of skiing the piste in question. It is time to get avi equipment - me thinks, but still thinking about how to handle this, it isn't a blank check to go off piste.... and I can't keep up with them anymore, so I'm not always there.
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I know what you mean. My daughter first skied La Grave in a large group inc me in 2009 when she was 13. In 2012 she skied the Clot de Chalance which is hairy long off piste descent here again in a group inc me when she was far more worried about my ability than me about hers. Both times though she had a full avi kit and the group was led by an instructor I trust implicitly.
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sah wrote:
Quote:

If one particular chair had been open today, and not closed due to technical issues, there would have been powder hounds a plenty, many with no idea or gear, or all the gear and no idea.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are immediate decisions with a view to closing lifts that enable people to venture into dangerous terrain, but where do you draw the line?


Not sure where you are referring to but if lifts access dangerous areas, even if that terrain is off piste or closed pistes, then some lift companies are already very wary of opening the lift if the avalanche risk is high. It might well have been closed for technical reasons, but lift companies do try and manage the "powder fever" in some areas. It's annoying for those who know what they are doing (or like to think they do), but I have no doubt many disasters are prevented by this tactic.

The problem with skiing a popular off-piste route with easy lift access these days need to include the factor that some people who DON'T know what they're doing maybe above you.

If the lift were not running, you only need to consider the action of your own group for the most part.
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Claude B wrote:
Big debate on French TV atm as to whether closed signage was good enough. Netting/sign across whole piste entrance, could easily go around the sign though as we did Tuesday. Difficult to miss that it was closed imo. Resort getting defensive apparently and talking about closure of some pistes and/or lifts.

I have been involved in putting up nets and closed signage for race pistes, every time have had people go around them and deny that the signs and nets were there, even if you make it hard to get past a barrier they seem to just treat it as a challenge.
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The prosecutor is giving a press conference at the moment.

1 the school teacher is in custody (but still in hospital) however the prosecutor reminded everyone that this should not be taken as a sign of his guilt. the press should not rush to judgement
2 there is an involuntary manslaughter investigation pending
3 off piste is not banned in France, that is not the subject of the investigation, it is up to an individual to decide whether they ski a closed run, or not
4 The responsibility is yet to be determined: pisteurs, person who triggered the avalanche, ski leaders
5 a member of a group of 12-15 people (Romanian/Hungarian) have been interviewed by the Gendarmerie, they cut across above the school group, after clearing the piste they heard an "explosion" and saw the avalanche behind them
6. another witness has confirmed that the Romanian group triggered the avalanche - still being investigated but conditions on the ground, fresh snow, poor viz have hampered this
7 The Gendarmerie are trying to find the other members of the Romanian group
8 - was there a lack of authority from the teacher? to be determined but there are claims that it was the students who took the decision to ski the run, they had been demanding to ski in that area in the morning but another teacher had told them not to.
9 - how was the piste blocked? a netting of 1x50 meters. The group climbed over this netting and had seen the warning signs. As did other skiers in the resort. For the prosecutor the piste was closed and marked as such. The equivalent of a "no entry" sign on a street.
10. discussion around off piste and closed pistes - to be decided if there is a difference in this case
11. the two students were 16 years old, one had 17th birthday next week
12. teacher doesn't have head injuries, he's ok, no danger
13 "Ukranian" victim was a tourist but doubts about his identity, has wife and child (in resort?)
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I find it baffling how some people can take risks... not necessarily speaking of this incident, but brings to mind the Dutch Prince Friso in Lech. Off piste, with a guide (who seemed to be a friend), the prince had no AVI equipment... I mean WTH? This was a man with a very high IQ, was afforded all the resources that one could think of, and no avi equipment. After 2 years of being brain dead, he finally passed away.

Wearing a seat belt doesn't guarantee something bad won't happen, but it does increase chances of safety, bar not getting in a car at all.... You can't prevent every tragedy from happening, but you should do what you can...

I can't imagine what these parents are going through now - a parent's worst nightmare... and they are innocent, how were they to know?
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We do get groups of college/lycee kids spending the week round here during non-school holiday weeks as there is a residence in the village that exclusively caters for school groups of this kind. They are out with instructors (+ school teachers) mornings and afternoons. I have never seen any of them be particularly good at skiing i.e. struggling on pisted blues and reds and no way would you see them attempting to do something like this as a result. I guess that was part of the problem with this group from Lyon - they were described as experienced and good skiers, and I guess the piste seemed to be within their ability and other seemingly experienced and good skiers were nipping over the fences and doing it, so that's ok….

tragic Sad

Davidof - with the other victim - did they say they were unsure who he was and whether he had a wife and child or just unsure whether his wife and child were in resort?
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HeidiAmsterdam wrote:
I find it baffling how some people can take risks... not necessarily speaking of this incident, but brings to mind the Dutch Prince Friso in Lech. Off piste, with a guide (who seemed to be a friend), the prince had no AVI equipment... I mean WTH? This was a man with a very high IQ, was afforded all the resources that one could think of, and no avi equipment. After 2 years of being brain dead, he finally passed away.

Wearing a seat belt doesn't guarantee something bad won't happen, but it does increase chances of safety, bar not getting in a car at all.... You can't prevent every tragedy from happening, but you should do what you can...

I can't imagine what these parents are going through now - a parent's worst nightmare... and they are innocent, how were they to know?


I thought Friso just wasn't using an airbag but did have a beep, which to me wasn't that crazy given airbags were only just getting mass takeup
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Claude B
why did you go down a closed piste on Tuesday and why did your guide think it was ok? Whatever yours and his/her thinking was - would go some way to explaining the teacher's thinking surely?
It sounds like it is considered perfectly normal to ignore these closures?
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
HeidiAmsterdam wrote:
I find it baffling how some people can take risks... not necessarily speaking of this incident, but brings to mind the Dutch Prince Friso in Lech. Off piste, with a guide (who seemed to be a friend), the prince had no AVI equipment... I mean WTH? This was a man with a very high IQ, was afforded all the resources that one could think of, and no avi equipment. After 2 years of being brain dead, he finally passed away.

Wearing a seat belt doesn't guarantee something bad won't happen, but it does increase chances of safety, bar not getting in a car at all.... You can't prevent every tragedy from happening, but you should do what you can...

I can't imagine what these parents are going through now - a parent's worst nightmare... and they are innocent, how were they to know?


I thought Friso just wasn't using an airbag but did have a beep, which to me wasn't that crazy given airbags were only just getting mass takeup


correct. he had a beep - but the guide he was with had an airbag, and this was a person who wasn't lacking for anything...
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From what I'd read, the piste seemed to be closed for reasons of lack of snow. It doesn't seem to have been for risk of avalanche reasons.
Can anyone confirm?

So if that were the case, the action of whoever decided to enter the piste doesn't seem quite as foolhardy - also suggests that had the piste condition itself been better the piste could well have been open to normal traffic and the avalanche come down on potentially many more people...
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@enda1, I think it had been closed due to lack of snow but then recent snowfall and temperatures etc. meant it remained closed but now due to avalanche risk..? Other, much more knowledgeable, people will be able to say. But I guess they didn't put up specific signs saying "closed due to lack of snow" or "closed due to avalanche risk" or "closed to preserve the snow for the school holidays" etc. I wonder if that would make matters better or worse? (obviously the latter will make some think "bug the Parisians")
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HeidiAmsterdam wrote:

I can't imagine what these parents are going through now - a parent's worst nightmare... and they are innocent, how were they to know?


Probably the most pertinent comment in this thread..........
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miranda wrote:


Davidof - with the other victim - did they say they were unsure who he was and whether he had a wife and child or just unsure whether his wife and child were in resort?


They seem to have some doubts as to if the identity papers were correct and whether people saying they were his wife and son were really so. I have no idea why, the prosecutor was very cagey on this point. Initially raising lots of doubts then trying to downplay things as "just routine". Seemed a bit odd.
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poppyb wrote:
Claude B
why did you go down a closed piste on Tuesday and why did your guide think it was ok? Whatever yours and his/her thinking was - would go some way to explaining the teacher's thinking surely?
It sounds like it is considered perfectly normal to ignore these closures?


We got quite a speech from our instructors at LDA this morning on why you should never ignore piste closures. The jist was the closure is because they know its unsafe to ski there. So it seems at least these professionals dont thinks its supposed to be normal to ignore the signs....but perhaps a significant minority do judging by the number of people I saw on closed pistes that day, and even again today surprisingly.
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Quote:

A couple of years ago I skipped into closed pistes on successive holidays when I was a lot more naive. I wouldn't think about doing it for a second now.[


Quite. I didn't realise the dangers until a few years ago - look back and think 'wow, that was stupid'.
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kat.ryb wrote:
Quote:

A couple of years ago I skipped into closed pistes on successive holidays when I was a lot more naive. I wouldn't think about doing it for a second now.[


Quite. I didn't realise the dangers until a few years ago - look back and think 'wow, that was stupid'.

you know what they say about judgement and experience...

There're still a lot of things I don't know what I don't know Embarassed
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miranda wrote:
But I guess they didn't put up specific signs saying "closed due to lack of snow" or "closed due to avalanche risk" or "closed to preserve the snow for the school holidays" etc. I wonder if that would make matters better or worse?


I doubt they did, and I've never seen signs saying WHY a piste closed. But they really should do it, as it makes a LOT of difference.

If a piste is closed due to lack of snow, you know you can still ski it safely by adjusting how you ski it, as long as you're not precious about your skis. I've actually had some really good untracked spring snow on pistes closed due to that, when just the bottom 100m were a bit rocky. I wouldn't ski a piste closed for avi reasons - but I'm lucky enough to spend enough time in various resorts to intimately know the conditions, terrain around the pistes, and lift company attitude, so I can make the judgement pretty confidently.
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clarky999 wrote:
I doubt they did, and I've never seen signs saying WHY a piste closed. But they really should do it, as it makes a LOT of difference.


Is there a liability issue? If x resort puts up a sign saying "Piste Closed - Thin Snow Cover" and then someone gets caught up in an avi....

Saw plenty of "Thin Snow Cover" signs in the 3V over Christmas, but only on open pistes. Any closed piste just had the "Ferme, Cerrado, Closed" type signs up, with only a few pistes completely closed off with netting.
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I think the word "closed" means simply that. But then I ride a lot in North America where you'd lose your lift pass and probably end up being taken away by the sheriff if you ride closed areas. You could easily cause problems for people riding in open areas. It's just not acceptable to many people. But then this is France, and people there accept this behaviour. Quite possibly their overall death rate isn't worse than North America - anyone care to check?

If a piste is "closed", then they're not likely to bother doing avalanche control and patrol on it. It's closed, duh.

Personally I'd not ride closed areas, so this isn't a risk I face.
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@clarky999, I totally see what you're saying but isn't that the point? Should 'closed' just mean closed and there are consequences for those who violate that, even if they get away with it in terms of personal safety? It does make a difference to people's perception, but then they are going to have to come up with signs to cover their backs on all sorts of situations e.g. "not enough snow, and really, I know you're a fab skier who can ski down a tiny corridor and doesn't care about your skis… but we're looking at you clarky999…

I hate the idea of closing off the mountain to people who want to exercise their own autonomy but let's not forget the pisteurs are up for investigation as much as anyone else, nor how devastated rescuers are from Claude's testimony… Confused
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I'm with @philwig, closed is closed. He's correct that in the states, the pull your pass, and ask questions later.

It isn't enough to have a sign, there need to be consequence for breaking the rules, and that they don't do here, so it seems normal just to ski past them
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I don't know how the French interprets "closed". Wink

But usually, a stretch of snow is 1) open, 2) closed, 3) no sign.

If it's 3, no sign, it only means "it's not my problem, you make your own decision". But that would leaves 2 "closed" as "we think it's a really bad idea to go there!"

Now, how one interprets somebody else's "really bad idea" is a different matter. Still, if you choose to go in, you'd better be really, really sure it's a good idea!
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philwig wrote:


If a piste is "closed", then they're not likely to bother doing avalanche control and patrol on it. It's closed, duh.



That's often exactly WHY they are closed.
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miranda wrote:
@clarky999, I totally see what you're saying but isn't that the point? Should 'closed' just mean closed and there are consequences for those who violate that, even if they get away with it in terms of personal safety? It does make a difference to people's perception, but then they are going to have to come up with signs to cover their backs on all sorts of situations e.g. "not enough snow, and really, I know you're a fab skier who can ski down a tiny corridor and doesn't care about your skis… but we're looking at you clarky999…

I hate the idea of closing off the mountain to people who want to exercise their own autonomy but let's not forget the pisteurs are up for investigation as much as anyone else, nor how devastated rescuers are from Claude's testimony… Confused


Yep for sure, it's a tough question.

For me if I decide to ski it, and break myself/my skis on rocks, or there's so little snow that I have to walk up, then tough: my decision to ski it, gotta take the consequences. And as the resort doesn't own the land, I don't think it's unreasonable for me to make that decision and take responsibility for myself.

99% of the time in that scenario there's just a couple of very visible rocks or a bit of gravel that really isn't a danger though - and I guess a lot of people see that, so the next time they see a closed piste, they don't even stop to think about why it's closed. Explaining why it's closed would help a lot.

For example when they closed the home run at Ischgl last Sunday for 15 mins to blast the slopes above, lots of people tried to sneak past. They knew there was snow, and they could get down it, and just didn't think about avalanches. When they were stopped and told, they were of course happy to wait. If people in L2A has known the slope was closed specifically due to avalanche reasons, maybe less would have skied it?

To me there's a very big difference between closed for avalanches and closed for rocky slopes. It's 100% possible to ski a rocky slope very safely, as long as you're careful and manage the risk - the risk or danger is 100% within your control. Skiing a slope that's specifically identified as being at risk of avalanches is always reckless - you yourself have no control over the outcome.

I totally see the other side of it though. And it's not something I do a lot of (and NEVER when a slope is closed for avi reasons).

______________


This probably isn't the place for this discussion though. Horrible situation, and my thoughts are with the family, friends, rescuers - and the teacher.
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Back to the human side of the tragedy. I went to the minutes silence in the main square at 5.30. There were several hundred people there perhaps 50% instructors, etc. It was very moving, after the silence we all placed a lighted candle around the Christmas tree which is still there. My mate a very tough Welshman who helped in the search was very much pset.!

Lots of TV and press cameras there and there are some moving photos on L2A Facebook page.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Thu 21-01-16 4:37; edited 1 time in total
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http://youtube.com/v/ayXbb8i12_o
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@stanton, horrible stuff, but sadly my brain can't get round the way he pronounces avalanche (avalonch). In Devonian it would be avalaaanch
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Tricky one this. You can ski anywhere in France at your own risk. However this risk does not seem to factor in your actions on others. I was on an off-piste ski course two weeks ago. Following heavy snow fall we skied an un-pisted run and the very well qualified and skilled instructor bought it home - wherever you are on the mountain the risk is very high in these conditions. What amazed me was people were bombing around all over the place with zero regard for anyone elses safety. These were tricky, dangerous and physically demanding skiing conditions coupled to unstable snow and a good smattering of powder madness.... Some of what I witnessed was pretty unbelievable. Our instructor described the avalanche risk due to the particular topography and how people skiing above would more likely set off an avalanche - not deliberately but due to inxperience. We were looking at a north facing convex slope with lots of fresh snow on! I am sure the forth coming investigation will flush all this out in the coming months. I don't believe any of this was intended (by the teacher or the party skiing above) and I cannot begin to comprehend what the families must be going through as a result. Take care this winter and enjoy the mountains - be safe for you and others. It doesn't take much consideration.
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clarky999 wrote:
miranda wrote:
But I guess they didn't put up specific signs saying "closed due to lack of snow" or "closed due to avalanche risk" or "closed to preserve the snow for the school holidays" etc. I wonder if that would make matters better or worse?


I doubt they did, and I've never seen signs saying WHY a piste closed. But they really should do it, as it makes a LOT of difference.


I've seen very specific signs used in Chamonix, saying "closed due to thin snow" and "closed due to avalanche risk." They even put up netted signs about avalanche risk for entries to off piste lines where the terrain is above pistes, this pic from last season is a good example:

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Quote:

If a piste is closed due to lack of snow, you know you can still ski it safely by adjusting how you ski it, as long as you're not precious about your skis. I've actually had some really good untracked spring snow on pistes closed due to that, when just the bottom 100m were a bit rocky


+1

Les Contamines village is quite low (1150m). The resort runs are fairly north facing and in the trees but still get closed fairly regularly for thin snow cover but never (in my experience) for avalanche risk. I often ski them when they are closed including with my children who are highly capable of managing their speed and line to navigate around bare patches etc. One time we had to take our skis off and walk for 100m - no problem. If you ski tour you often have to travel across these kind of conditions at the end of a route. The resort is right to put up closed barriers - if you had a large number of skiers descending, including the idiots who ski too fast for their ability, then it would get really dangerous. But if you are experienced and sensible it is not dangerous to pass the barrier.
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