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Snow and avalanche 2017/18

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead

The photo.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
There are already some fairly big slabs in place, these at Pra Loup after avalanche control work yesterday, probably not easy for a skier to trigger but it shows the amount of snow at altitude. Once again the Haute Savoie prefecture has advised caution to off piste skiers with the return to sun after the storm. Alain Duclos things we are in for a winter of "big avalanches" and says the season is off to a bad start (avalanche risk wise).



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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@jbob, saw that too. Good reminder also that the main threat he faced was being dragged over rocks not burial.

@davidof, v useful thread. Lots of great information.
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Another deadly avalanche in Valais on monday. One buried and killed in Ovrannaz. It seems there have been a lot of small to medium slides the last couple of days.
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https://www.thelocal.ch/20171213/three-skiers-convicted-after-causing-avalanche-that-injured-two-others/amp?__twitter_impression=true

Interesting court case in Switzerland regarding liability.
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Quote:

Interesting court case in Switzerland regarding liability.


I think that is an important message by the Court.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Quote:

Avoidance: keep of slopes mentioned in the avalanche bulletin, keep to lower angled terrain when the risk is 3 or above


It seems to me every amateur's default position should be - stay below 30 degrees if risk is 3 or above (including avoid exposure to >30 degrees slopes above you of course).
To do that, you need to know how to read an avalanche report, identify what altitude and elevation a piece of terrain is and use an inclinometer.

If you can do that you will cut your risk massively. It doesn't require a huge amount of knowledge about snowpack.

You will make yourself even safer if you have some basic knowledge/discipline about rollovers, terrain traps, places of safety. Again this isn't very difficult or complex.

If you want to push the envelope - ski above 30 degrees at 3+ - then you start to need a bunch more knowledge to assess the snowpack and manage risk. You either need to get that yourself or hire a professional.

In general, I stick to the 30 degree limit but MIGHT go over it if everything else is low risk (terrain I know w/o avalanche history/terrain traps/size of slope/lack of rollovers/good points of safety) and I am in an appropriate group (people I know well who are good skiers, avalanche aware and sensible/disciplined, oh and adults able to make their own decisions). These are things which I feel I can assess without deep expertise.

Have to say that management of the human factors is helped by the fact that the guys I ski with all have kids and have a cautious/prudent approach to make sure they get home to them.

I'd welcome all comments from the more expert posters about how robust they think my approach is. Or isn't.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@jedster, you rarely end up with the same risk factor across a mountain. It’s a guideline and a professional estimation. So on some aspects what might be ok may not on others. So it’s a bit tricky to come up with blanket rules. And I’m intrinsically uneasy about saying anything to do with avalanche safety isn’t complex.

Level 3 is actually quite high. Four times level 1. “Considerable risk.” The majority of fatalities occur when there is a level 3 risk (partly because when you get to 4 and 5 people tend to stay away and partly because after fresh significant snow it is likely to be at least level 3).

That’s not saying your mitigation’s aren’t sensible, but just that they still carry risk when you start talking about steeper slopes. But it sounds like you know that (sticking to shallower slopes which you’ve thought about, picking sensible partners). The obvious additional mitigation you could take would relate to knowing how to deal with the aftermath of an avalanche and having practiced it. That won’t prevent the avalanche, but might make a difference if the worst happens.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Wed 13-12-17 14:20; edited 1 time in total
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Fully agree with you @jedster regarding the 30 deg "boundary". Indeed, I have had this exact talk with more than one mountain guide whilst in a training session.
Invoking the slope ratio of 1v, 2h provides a fraction greater margin as this is 26 1/2 degs, stack the deck in your favour!
To add further weight to your statement the Swiss (blue) ski touring series have all terrain at 30 degs shaded in pink. Do other alpine nations have a similar series?
When considering a day out it is extremely easy to plan ultra safe routes or if conditions are favourable more bold lines.
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With Avy risk at 4, today played it very safe with the OH and you don't need steeps to have fun, plus if you're ski touring it's nice to take your time coming down rather then have it all over in 5 mins!

En route I changed my plan as we were skinning up the piste, although I was already formulating a change to it when I met two other tourers and they said the pisteurs had warned them that they were going to be blasting from a heli higher up.

So that confirmed where I'd been thinking to go, and that was in the forest above a summer village and then ski out of that on to the old pasture meadows and terraces.

As we started skinning up away from the piste so route selection became more critical, not least I had my OH and Les Chiens with me who can't take such a steep line (well the dogs can) but I wanted to stay well away from anything remotely steep.

The terraces actually went into the forest as the trees grew after the the farmers left the village.

I also know the terrain well, skiing it a number of times each season from the Cucumelle.

That said my heart was pounding as I was breaking track and memories of getting caught in a slide in a forest last season came flooding back.

I was aiming for a plateau beneath a large cliff all the time conscious that if there was a massive slide from above would we be protected and it would have to be one of those massive powder avalanches for that to happen and I was pretty sure we were well away from the natural chutes where they almost are filtered down through and you do say to yourself well would they have built the village there if it was in the fall line of a massive avalanche, but we all know that villages that have been there for centuries can get taken out, and this recent snow fall was way out of the ordinary.

Looking across to part of our planned descent - more or less from top left of picture to half way on right


Frejus Village. On the horizon top left you can see Col du Buffere - then the peak to the right is Le Grand Area, and then the small one below it, more or less in the middle is La Gardiole and that too is very mellow terrain for the most part, but currently you would not want to summit as too steep and then to the right of it is the Col de Granon.

Our ski line was in the thin line of trees you can see then opens out to the meadows in the first image.


OH and Les Chiens



http://youtube.com/v/HluBs4X54S4
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One dead today on a north facing slope in Serfaus. No real details yet. RIP.

https://lawinenwarndienst.blogspot.co.at/2017/12/todlicher-lawinenunfall-pezid.html
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Quote:
Ein deutscher Skifahrer ist am Mittwoch bei einem Lawinenabgang im freien Skiraum am Pezid in Serfaus (Bezirk Landeck) in Tirol gestorben. Der Mann konnte nach rund 30 Minuten zwar gefunden werden, sofort eingeleitete Reanimationsversuche blieben jedoch erfolglos, teilten die Bergbahnen mit. Ein weiterer teilweise Verschütteter überstand den Lawinenabgang unbeschadet.

Er konnte sich selbst aus den Schneemassen befreien bzw. wurde von den Rettungskräften sofort gesehen. Die beiden Wintersportler dürften die Lawine selbst losgetreten haben, hieß es. Ein weiteres Mitglied der insgesamt dreiköpfigen Gruppe aus Deutschland war beim Abgang der Lawine nicht im selben Hang. Die Skifahrer hatten keine Lawinenverschüttetensuchgeräte bei sich.

Mann starb am Lawinenhang
Die rund 150 Meter lange und 70 Meter breite Lawine war gegen 12.30 Uhr abgegangen. Rund eine halbe Stunde später wurde der Verschüttete gefunden. Ein bereits eingetroffener Notarzt leitete sofort Reanimationsversuche ein, die jedoch erfolglos blieben. Der Mann starb noch am Lawinenhang. Die beiden anderen Mitglieder der Gruppe wurden an Ort und Stelle versorgt, ein Kriseninterventionsteam wurde angefordert. Kurz nach 13.00 Uhr wurde die Suchaktion beendet, da ausgeschlossen werden konnte, dass noch weitere Personen verschüttet waren, hieß es.

Die Lawinengefahr war am Mittwoch von den Experten des Landes in weiten Teilen Tirols als erheblich, also mit Stufe "3" der fünfteiligen Skala, eingestuft worden. Neuschnee und stark bis stürmische Winde sorgten für Verfrachtungen. Dieser Triebschnee sei mit der Altschneeoberfläche nur schlecht verbunden. Lawinen ließen sich daher schon durch geringe Zusatzbelastung, also einen einzelnen Wintersportler auslösen, berichtete der Lawinenwarndienst.


https://kurier.at/chronik/oesterreich/tirol-toter-bei-lawinenabgang-in-serfaus/301.927.626


Salient points ....
Area = Pezid in Serfaus
3 germans, 2 skiing the same small steep north facing slope at the side of the piste at the same time.
They triggered the avalanche themselves.
Found after 30 mins, emergency services tried but couldn't resuscitate him.
The other skier dug himself out and was uninjured.
They didn't have avalanche transceivers.
approx 150m long x 70m wide
Windblown snow badly bonded to old snow layer below.
RIP Sad
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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
On the comment, “would they have built the village there if it was in the fall line of a massive avalanche”?

How many French villages are called “le Lavancher” or similar?

Shocked
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Rogerdodger, for France you can use the maps here (previously posted by davidof):

http://www.skitrack.fr/

You just need to tick at least one of the 'Pente>30' boxes.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Five soldiers dead in Kashmir avalanche this week.

A huge 1.5m snowfall in just a few days.

The biggest avalanche accidents usually happen outside Europe.

http://theinsidercarnews.com/2017/12/12/5-soldiers-missing-along-loc-three-after-avalanche-in-gurez/
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 Poster: A snowHead
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altis wrote:
@Rogerdodger, for France you can use the maps here (previously posted by davidof):

http://www.skitrack.fr/

You just need to tick at least one of the 'Pente>30' boxes.


Thanks for the reminder Altis, very useful and I do use them regularly
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
...


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 13-12-17 20:29; edited 1 time in total
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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?
The pisteurs have certainly been getting results all over the Alps at the moment. Here a remote triggering by the pisteurs at Montgenvre, with the pisteurs warning that there is really a very fragile layer in the snowpack, sensitive to the passage of a single skier.



and this link from Romain Montimart at la Clusaz is interesting, Catex used to trigger a slide at the top of the ski area

https://www.facebook.com/rom.montimart/
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There was a recent ruling whereby a mountain guide was still found guilty even though the slope had been avalanche controlled.
Happened Jan 2017 in Zürs. One Dutch skier died even though he was dug out within 10 mins.

http://tirol.orf.at/news/stories/2882696/
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@jedster,
In Austria & Germany there are quite a few Skiführer or Ski Atlas books, these are basically ski touring routes (in German).
https://www.amazon.de/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=skitourenf%C3%BChrer&tag=amz07b-21&index=aps&hvadid=174468308123&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=18003575626057363877&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9062730&hvtargid=kwd-3755298051&ref=pd_sl_8vt5u0jinw_e
The technical difficulty, required fitness level and avalanche risks are often included. When the conditions are tricky (such as now) we pick out routes with very low avalanche risk. Should there be enough snow yet the avalanche risk is lower (doesn't happen that often esp with Level 1 avi risk) then we will consider the steeper routes.
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http://www.lenouvelliste.ch/articles/valais/valais-central/ovronnaz-un-skieur-decede-dans-une-avalanche-722524


Quote:
A freerider lost his life in Ovronnaz, swept away by a flow of snow. His body was found Tuesday under more than five feet of snow. He is a 49-year-old Italian national living in Italy.

A skier was swept away by an avalanche at Ovronnaz. His lifeless body was found Tuesday in the early afternoon under more than five feet of snow, announces Wednesday the cantonal police. He is a 49-year-old Italian national living in Italy.

On Sunday, one of the skier's relatives announced during the night that he could not get in touch with him. His vehicle was then able to be located in Ovronnaz . Monday, after unsuccessful searches in the station, the Zurich Cantonal Police was asked to hire a helicopter equipped with a device to locate mobile phones.

The device of the disappeared was then located in a corridor at a place called "La Combe des Genevois". After a search suspension due to adverse weather conditions, the freerider was found lifeless by two guides from the FXB rescue house.



https://www.google.fr/maps/place/Ovronnaz/@46.2050507,7.135419,16.75z
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davidof wrote:
The pisteurs have certainly been getting results all over the Alps at the moment. Here a remote triggering by the pisteurs at Montgenvre, with the pisteurs warning that there is really a very fragile layer in the snowpack, sensitive to the passage of a single skier.






That terrain where the track is looks quite mellow Puzzled
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@Weathercam, just next to it (the bit that has slid) looks steeper and rolling over though, plus the trees sticking out will be extra trigger points.
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@clarky999, I can see that, and it's a good example of how 20% is cool and 30% is not - or is it a case of the photo not showing exactly how steep it is which is so often the case.

And presume it must be close to the piste hence pisteurs triggering it.

Really does highlight how it can all go pear shaped with the wrong line as I know all too well.
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Looks like the Western Alps are going to be a bit dicy this weekend...

https://www.slf.ch/en/avalanche-bulletin-and-snow-situation.html#snowpack

Outlook through Saturday, 16.12.2017
Friday
On Thursday night, snowfall over widespread areas is anticipated which will be heavy in western regions. During the daytime on Friday, weather conditions will quiet down for a brief interim. A strong-velocity westerly wind will be blowing ongoingly.
In western regions the avalanche danger will increase, presumably to danger level 4 (high avalanche danger) from place to place. In southern and eastern regions, the avalanche situation is not expected to change significantly.
Saturday
On Saturday, snowfall is anticipated on the northern flank of the Alps more than anywhere else. The snowfall is expected to intensify during the course of the day. In the Ticino and in Grisons, strong-velocity northerly winds are expected to arise.
The avalanche danger in the furthermost western regions will remain critical. In the remaining regions of Switzerland, danger levels will also increase somewhat, in northern regions due to snowfall most of all, in Grisons and in the Ticino as a result of northerly winds.
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Interesting report on the snowpack so far by the Tirol Avalanche Commission:

https://lawinenwarndienst.blogspot.co.at/2017/12/schneedeckenaufbau-aktuelle-analyse.html

Too much to translate (copy chunks into google translate if you need to), but one pertinent (and positive) point: while we have an old snow problem in places, it bears no comparison to the massive old snow problem of the past couple of winters.


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Fri 15-12-17 18:39; edited 1 time in total
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backing up @clarky999 comment, just went to an avalanche awareness session with Xavier de Le Rue who’d been riding the Attelas couloirs in Verbier today and his view was that despite being deep the current snowpack, or at least what he had ridden, was very stable
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Sadly, A death in La Plagne this afternoon. Take care across the whole of the Alps folks:

http://www.ledauphine.com/savoie/2017/12/15/savoie-un-skieur-de-46-ans-meurt-emporte-par-une-avalanche
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BobinCH wrote:
backing up @clarky999 comment, just went to an avalanche awareness session with Xavier de Le Rue who’d been riding the Attelas couloirs in Verbier today and his view was that despite being deep the current snowpack, or at least what he had ridden, was very stable


I'd be careful about making generalizations based on what someone has skied though. Couloirs tend to be more stable generally as they fill with snow from the walls then auto-purge during, or shortly after, fresh snowfall. They tend to not pick up weak layers because of this.

A deep snowpack is not necessarily an unstable snowpack, the opposite in fact.

I'd be interested if you did any stability tests. In the Chartreuse yesterday I'd tend to say the same as Xavier, despite the mix of snow, rain, snow, wind over the first four days of the week where I was it seemed very stable - 10,15cm of fresh on a fairly thick rain crust that had begun to refreeze with older snow underneath but it is quite a cocktail of layers with a lot of wind loading (from a SW to W wind) in places. Again, with the rain, altitude will play an important factor in stability in the coming days and weeks.

This photo is between Sestriere / Montgenvre, the slope above was remote triggered by a ski tourer on the flat on Tuesday. It shows that there is a very sensitive and widespread weak layer in that location. The crown was up to 1 meter deep.



and someone went back and did a stability test yesterday in the same area


http://youtube.com/v/KnCbeVbXLS8


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Sat 16-12-17 12:30; edited 1 time in total
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It has been a long time but above average snow depths this mid December the French Alps in most areas

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Poster: A snowHead
jedster wrote:
Quote:

Interesting court case in Switzerland regarding liability.


I think that is an important message by the Court.


Big piece about avalanches in today's Times newspaper on page 11

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/early-snowfall-brings-avalanche-warnings-for-alps-ski-resorts-vjdtmv0f8?shareToken=ff32329aafe34976c23e579e30d272bc
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This from Meteo France yesterday evening,

Quote:


The greatest caution is recommended to mountain practitioners during the weekend, especially in the Northern Alps and northern Hautes-Alpes.
Indeed, the risk that a skier or hiker triggers a slab avalanche will be marked, locally strong, from the average altitude in many slopes.

The important snowy events that have followed each other in the Alps for almost three weeks have often been accompanied by very strong winds and varied orientations. As a result, many slabs and accumulations have formed. The last snowfalls, cold and light, are easily transportable by the north wind that will blow, even moderately. Thus, many slabs, often tricky because of appearance still powdery, will form. Very unstable, they are likely to be triggered by skiers, even spaced. This risk is present at all altitudes and on all sheltered slopes of the wind, even in usual areas of off-piste skiing, still very little traveled at the very beginning of the season.

The greatest caution is therefore recommended in the practice of skiing or hiking outside marked and secured trails.

For more information on the weather conditions and the risks of avalanches in the mountains, you can consult the mountain pages of the Météo-France website (www.meteofrance.com), as well as the Météo France and Météo Ski mobile apps.
You can also find out locally from mountain professionals
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@davidof, alas i’m crocked at the moment so watching enviously from the sidelines...

Here’s one of the lines he skied:
https://instagram.com/p/Bcu_e5XHhNv/

Inspiring and very humble guy. He spoke about how his attitude totally changed after getting caught in a huge slide 10 years ago...

To your comment, he said he prefers couloirs to big open faces due to the auto purging and ability to find islands of safety
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BobinCH wrote:
@davidof, alas i’m crocked at the moment so watching enviously from the sidelines...


yes, same as you now, chest infection, maybe a good weekend here to take it easy.
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Not sure if @davidof has already posted a link, but salutary reading. Not least the number of guides, instructors and pros involved.

http://pistehors.com/review-of-french-avalanche-incidents-2016-17-25224232.htm
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Slab avy in the Berwyns, Mid Wales yesterday. Possibly triggered by walkers on the steeper slopes. Link from the ground conditions group:

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so that's a couple of avalanches in Wales then?
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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!
@davidof, I saw 2 yesterday up in the Bewyns, plus there were reports of the one taking the guy in Snowdonia.

I think the one pictured was yesterday while the other debris looked like they were from a couple of days ago. Opposite aspects.
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AndAnotherThing.. wrote:
@davidof, I saw 2 yesterday up in the Bewyns, plus there were reports of the one taking the guy in Snowdonia.

I think the one pictured was yesterday while the other debris looked like they were from a couple of days ago. Opposite aspects.


hah, is nowhere safe? There will be an avalanche in, I don't know, Lewes next!
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Rare Cantal avalanche fatality

http://pistehors.com/avalanche-death-in-the-massif-central-25226325.htm

which gives an idea of the conditions both in terms of snow and instability at the moment. That said, a lot of people were out ripping it up in the Alps with only one incident at la Plagne on Friday.

* Middle aged local experienced male skier
* Solo
* Poor weather conditions
* High avalanche risk

Mitigation: fatal avalanches are unusual in the area, avalanche risk isn't well communicated in the area, there is no official bulletin, the High risk is a local estimation from the Le Lioran piste patrol.

One of the editors of skipass.com was also caught by a slide - maybe triggered from above. It was at Argentiere ??? in Italy. He was tree skiing and the slide came from above, he inflated his ABS but had the float(s) ripped off as he was strained through the trees. - Note some guides recommend not using an ABS if you are in trees as you get carried further by the slide and suffer more injuries.


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Mon 18-12-17 7:38; edited 2 times in total
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