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avalanche victim

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Folks, you all know much better than me what to do but I will never trust myself completely upon a local guide.
I was in Les 2 Alpes last week when a good and experienced local guide died in an avalance, together with a skier from his group. They went off piste just past the area we were skiing (on piste). I witnessed later all the choppers bringing pisteurs, dogs teams etc. It was Cat.3 at midday
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The hardest part is everyone needs to understand the risk profile is subjective. My bro and I have a very different risk tolerance even though our capability is similar. One man’s idiot is another man’s considered day tripper. If you aren’t endangering others with poor line choosing, have equipment and your group agree on risk that is the best you can do. Nothing is risk free especially if you are in the mountains.
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Quote:

The hardest part is everyone needs to understand the risk profile is subjective. My bro and I have a very different risk tolerance even though our capability is similar. One man’s idiot is another man’s considered day tripper. If you aren’t endangering others with poor line choosing, have equipment and your group agree on risk that is the best you can do. Nothing is risk free especially if you are in the mountains.


Maybe that is part of the appeal given our risk protected society.
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@Ldj226, Good post. +1
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Ldj226 wrote:
The hardest part is everyone needs to understand the risk profile is subjective. My bro and I have a very different risk tolerance even though our capability is similar. One man’s idiot is another man’s considered day tripper. If you aren’t endangering others with poor line choosing, have equipment and your group agree on risk that is the best you can do. Nothing is risk free especially if you are in the mountains.


The problem is that these things can't just be viewed in isolation.

Take the example where a lone skier (or even a group) decides to ski a route where the risk is considered acceptable to them but not necessarily by others. An avalanche occurs on said route and the avalanche and victim(s) spotted by someone who then reports to the relevant authorities. The rescuers are now exposed to the risks that were considered acceptable to the victims. I don't believe that this is a particularly extreme scenario, in fact I would suggest it's actually pretty common.
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@dsoutar, I disagree.
If you and your group has had, and absorbed off piste training, has discussed the risks associated with the slope in question and ride accordingly, have equipment and have practiced with it and are all happy riding the slope, what more can you do?
Your example isn't extreme but somewhere along the way, the decision making process took a wrong turn. All we can do is try to understand and minimise the risks.
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Without wanting to in any way understate the importance of education, experience and equipment, the biggest factor is pure luck. For the thousands of people skiing questionable off piste lines on avi 3/4 days there are still only a tiny number caught in avalanches. And it’s often the most experienced rather than the naive.
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BobinCH wrote:
Without wanting to in any way understate the importance of education, experience and equipment, the biggest factor is pure luck. For the thousands of people skiing questionable off piste lines on avi 3/4 days there are still only a tiny number caught in avalanches. And it’s often the most experienced rather than the naive.


That's one of the many (often ignored) issues we face. You make an unbeknownst to you bad decision but are lucky and you don't get avalanched. There were no bad consequences to your decision so you believe it was a good decision, so you think your judgement is good. The cycle continues until your luck runs out.

Lots more info out there on heuristic traps, familiarity seems to be a big one that might affect a few posters on this thread and definitely affected me when I was a seasonaire.
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dsoutar wrote:
Ldj226 wrote:
The hardest part is everyone needs to understand the risk profile is subjective. My bro and I have a very different risk tolerance even though our capability is similar. One man’s idiot is another man’s considered day tripper. If you aren’t endangering others with poor line choosing, have equipment and your group agree on risk that is the best you can do. Nothing is risk free especially if you are in the mountains.


The problem is that these things can't just be viewed in isolation.

Take the example where a lone skier (or even a group) decides to ski a route where the risk is considered acceptable to them but not necessarily by others. An avalanche occurs on said route and the avalanche and victim(s) spotted by someone who then reports to the relevant authorities. The rescuers are now exposed to the risks that were considered acceptable to the victims. I don't believe that this is a particularly extreme scenario, in fact I would suggest it's actually pretty common.

There's an even larger context than that.

There's been a lot of discussion on the subject, beyond skiing. It could be a climbing accident, a sailing mishap, or just a lost hiker! Any time a rescue is called for, the victim(s) had already made at least one mistake. The whole point of the rescue is if they can be rescued, they can live to learn from their mistake. Some do, but some don't. But even those who do learn, they may make another one that's different. Where does this stop? Should they stop taking risk, period?

Or should we all plant our butt firmly on the couch so no rescuer will ever have to risk their life and limb to come to the rescue?

Alternatively, should they be left to their own device and let Darwinism takes its course?
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Bruce Temper talks about risk in terms of percentages. If your good at assessment then you’ll get it right 95% of the time. If you only ski 6 days a year you’ll most likely get away with it. However if you ski 100 days you won’t. You’ll need to be better than good 99.9% say.

People talk about appetite for risk, problem is people just aren’t that good at judging it.
If i found myself in two avalanches in one session I’d be asking myself some serious questions, including about ditching the chap that lead me there.

Don’t ride your luck.
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Quote:

Bruce Temper talks about risk in terms of percentages. If your good at assessment then you’ll get it right 95% of the time. If you only ski 6 days a year you’ll most likely get away with it. However if you ski 100 days you won’t. You’ll need to be better than good 99.9% say.

People talk about appetite for risk, problem is people just aren’t that good at judging it.
If i found myself in two avalanches in one session I’d be asking myself some serious questions, including about ditching the chap that lead me there.

Don’t ride your luck.


nailed it I think.

Distinguishing between risk appetite and lack of competence is just about impossible. Are people really having conversations like
"well I think we will be 95% likely to get away with this and I'm good with that"
"My threshold is 99% so I'm not doing it"

I don't think so.
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Quote:

Distinguishing between risk appetite and lack of competence is just about impossible. Are people really having conversations like

"well I think we will be 95% likely to get away with this and I'm good with that"

"My threshold is 99% so I'm not doing it"


I don't think so.

Why do you think it's not happening like that?

Plenty of people are "not doing it" because they're not comfortable with the risk. The question is are those 95% people recognize they're accepting the risk?

What's the risk of getting nailed by an out-of-control skier on piste? How about getting nailed by an out of control driver on the way there? We made those decision early on when we took up the activities. We typically don't rethink those decisions until some close call happened.
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BobinCH wrote:
Without wanting to in any way understate the importance of education, experience and equipment, the biggest factor is pure luck. For the thousands of people skiing questionable off piste lines on avi 3/4 days there are still only a tiny number caught in avalanches. And it’s often the most experienced rather than the naive.




"just don't be too eager to empty your ski luck bucket if your in it for the long haul" good quote from bruce kay
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BobinCH wrote:
Without wanting to in any way understate the importance of education, experience and equipment, the biggest factor is pure luck. For the thousands of people skiing questionable off piste lines on avi 3/4 days there are still only a tiny number caught in avalanches. And it’s often the most experienced rather than the naive.

I disagree, probably.

The reason 20 year olds could not get insurance on my car is not because they're "unlucky". Gamblers don't make casinos rich because they're unlucky. Guides who are benighted in the Alps by bad weather without navigation aids, radios or weather forecasts aren't unlucky. Cave divers know that open water divers do not lack "luck", just appropriate skill. Old bold pilots don't exist irrespective of how lucky they were.

I'm not denying that there is always risk you can't control, but I'm not interested in "luck".
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Open water divers know that cave divers lack appropriate risk assessment skills Twisted Evil
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all,
Firstly, thanks for the nice comments - I’m probably still decompressing what happened, although was out skiing with the same guide today (although risk is now 2...)
Will try to answer some of the questions.
Resort - canazei, in sella Ronda. Local guide from the ski school, many years of local and global mountain skiing, climbing etc.
Route - south face of Sasso Pordoi, a free-ride only area.
Time - approx 12.20.
Subjectively, it was ‘late-ish’ for the day, snow was spring like - however, the guides assessment was that it had sufficiently transformed from the loose powder from the previous dump, and was not safe in prior days. Maybe 20 people had skied the overall route that day, and subjectively (having talked to some who either came to help, or met after), they had considered it ‘safe’.
On the pitch that slid, we were on 1 by 1, rest of group were on a safe island, guide and 1 guest (my wife) had skied down and were at the next island. I made maybe 3 turns before the slide, heard the call, and had time only to turn and pull the handle before it all went dark.

Not really had a debrief yet, will try to pin the guide down, but effectively it was a ‘possible’ outcome of skiing on cat 3 day, and we were taking the appropriate precautions. Not a lot we could have done differently, although I will now be looking at runout areas in more detail when on 1x1 terrain, as my main worry when sliding was ‘what’s coming next’.

Re ‘training with buddies’ - as others have mentioned, in these situations the ‘human factors’ count as well as skill - as I was one of the more experienced of the group, did they really know how to search? Could they have organised an effective rescue (fortunately not needed!)

Appreciate this is simply one example, and whilst anecdotes are not data, and need to be read in context (esp as its been a bad weekend), I hope others will learn from my experience. I’ll get some pics up for perspective, and any formal feedback from the guide.

As an aside, my wife was in the same area today, and was approached by two snowboarders enquiring as to appropriate routes - this on a ‘no piste’ mountain, with no arva gear.... risk may only be 2 now, but still.

If anyone has any specific questions, happy to take pms.

Stay safe out there
H.
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@hamilton, thanks for posting
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drporat wrote:
Folks, you all know much better than me what to do but I will never trust myself completely upon a local guide.
I was in Les 2 Alpes last week when a good and experienced local guide died in an avalance, together with a skier from his group. They went off piste just past the area we were skiing (on piste). I witnessed later all the choppers bringing pisteurs, dogs teams etc. It was Cat.3 at midday


Drporat, think you're actually quite on the mark
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dsoutar wrote:
Ldj226 wrote:
The hardest part is everyone needs to understand the risk profile is subjective. My bro and I have a very different risk tolerance even though our capability is similar. One man’s idiot is another man’s considered day tripper. If you aren’t endangering others with poor line choosing, have equipment and your group agree on risk that is the best you can do. Nothing is risk free especially if you are in the mountains.


The problem is that these things can't just be viewed in isolation.

Take the example where a lone skier (or even a group) decides to ski a route where the risk is considered acceptable to them but not necessarily by others. An avalanche occurs on said route and the avalanche and victim(s) spotted by someone who then reports to the relevant authorities. The rescuers are now exposed to the risks that were considered acceptable to the victims. I don't believe that this is a particularly extreme scenario, in fact I would suggest it's actually pretty common.


And this is on the mark
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BobinCH wrote:
Without wanting to in any way understate the importance of education, experience and equipment, the biggest factor is pure luck. For the thousands of people skiing questionable off piste lines on avi 3/4 days there are still only a tiny number caught in avalanches. And it’s often the most experienced rather than the naive.


And this
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Bergmeister wrote:
.....

Please explain what you mean by "train with your buddies so they don't panic."

Do you mean practice searching/digging etc? What training will prevent them from panicking?


Practice everything. I'm involved with a SAR team (in the sea and rivers more than mountains). When you get a shout you don't want to be thinking about what needs to be done. You need to know.

Remember learning to drive when you had to think about pushing in the clutch and then moving the gear stick remembering to check your mirrors and turn on the indicator first before you even got near a corner. Now you don't think about it. If you need to think about it under pressure you are possibly going to get it wrong. If you have a team of people needing to think about it they are nearly sure to get it wrong
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Ldj226 wrote:
The hardest part is everyone needs to understand the risk profile is subjective. My bro and I have a very different risk tolerance even though our capability is similar. One man’s idiot is another man’s considered day tripper. If you aren’t endangering others with poor line choosing, have equipment and your group agree on risk that is the best you can do. Nothing is risk free especially if you are in the mountains.


You're touching on the Dunning Kruger effect:



The people to watch out for are the 'all the gear' dudes who can't wait to talk up their knowledge and experience. It's just a miracle that the casualty numbers don't have an extra zero on them.

Nobody has mentioned it yet but I think something like 30% of avalanche deaths occur in L2. Yet most seem to think L3 and L4 are acceptable risks. Take all of the technology away and I wonder if the view would be the same.
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Isn’t that because many more people will ski in L2. If ten times as many people ski a risk band but the risk is only half, you would expect there to be more people caught.
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@hamilton, thanks for posting mate, I was a bit worried by your silence, but glad to hear that you've been back out there.

I'd be interested to know what the response to the situation was from those around you. I expect the guides were first to react and maybe to organise, but maybe if the others had little training then the guides would have been able to progress faster without them? Maybe you can let us know after your debrief?

As in any sport, there are risks, as long as we know them and understand them and try to take appropriate precautions to reduce the risks then that is all that we can do.

Years ago I used to be an avid BSAC diver around the British Isles; cave diving, wreck diving, deep diving, mixed gas, etc. Took all the courses available, including annual lifesaving and rescue and recovery, but I kind of lost my lust for it when re-breathers came around. A lot of technical divers got into it, including in my club, but there were a lot of deaths from it, I suspect that this was in part due to unfamiliarity with the kit and possible taking short cuts in the safety routine as it took so long to cycle through (most technical divers are techy geeks who think they know better... and from reading some of the comments posted on snowheads perhaps most technical skiers are too wink )

Anyway, I decided not to follow the revolution. Mainly because if something goes wrong with a closed circuit system (such as a rebreather) you wont know about it, you'll just die from lack of oxygen (as virtually all the deaths from rebreathers are from). If something goes wrong with an open circuit system, you will know immediately as there are no bubbles (or too many bubbles), so you can switch to your octopus, your bail out cylinder, or your buddy, or in the worst case head for the surface. Anyway, that was my risk assessment for diving with a closed system. I still dive but only in warm water now (I'm so nesh)
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@hamilton, thanks for posting... it's interesting stuff.
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@abc,
Quote:

Why do you think it's not happening like that?

Plenty of people are "not doing it" because they're not comfortable with the risk. The question is are those 95% people recognize they're accepting the risk?


Well mainly because I think people are unable to make an accurate differentiation as to whether the risk is actually 95% or 99%. As a result, a lot of the choices people make are more influenced by their position on the curve @Pruman, posted than by rational risk calculations.
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drporat wrote:
Folks, you all know much better than me what to do but I will never trust myself completely upon a local guide. I was in Les 2 Alpes last week when a good and experienced local guide died in an avalance, together with a skier from his group. They went off piste just past the area we were skiing (on piste). I witnessed later all the choppers bringing pisteurs, dogs teams etc. It was Cat.3 at midday

The Guide angle is always an interesting one. It's often stated that if you are unsure of the terrain, your ability to read the slopes/risk, then you should get a Guide. But I/we seem to read regular reports of people skiing with Guides or Guides themselves getting caught. There are lots of angles to this, some of which are:

#1 Guides are effectively paid to find to "entertain" the client with untracked and/or gnarly and/or little known quiet skiing. This inherently leads to more risk.

#2 Guides are experienced and I believe the stats suggest novices and experts are the most at risk categories.
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Quote:

#1 Guides are effectively paid to find to "entertain" the client with untracked and/or gnarly and/or little known quiet skiing. This inherently leads to more risk.



One of my ski buddies always takes a moment when we go out with a guide to say "look we want to do some good skiing but we all have wives and kids at home so we'd like you to err on the side of caution". DOn't know if it makes much difference but his point is to release some of that pressure on the guide to deliver the entertainment.
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jedster wrote:
Quote:

#1 Guides are effectively paid to find to "entertain" the client with untracked and/or gnarly and/or little known quiet skiing. This inherently leads to more risk.



One of my ski buddies always takes a moment when we go out with a guide to say "look we want to do some good skiing but we all have wives and kids at home so we'd like you to err on the side of caution". DOn't know if it makes much difference but his point is to release some of that pressure on the guide to deliver the entertainment.

Yes, I've come to the conclusion, that managing your guide is very important. I think this is easier in some circumstances more than others though. Years ago I did a couple of mornings with Top Ski out of Val D'Isere. Part of the reason is because I was more advanced that my ski trip buddies. And of course the group (5/6) was just a bunch of individuals - so no one person could speak for the group. I could have course have said "look mate, I want to have many more skiing holidays in the future... can you err on the side of caution" but not sure how this would go down or work out. Lot's of interesting dynamics in these situations. On another occasion there was just me and missus with a Guide so that was more manageable.
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@hamilton, Glad you are ok.

Just for clarification, Was the guide 'UIAGM' or local instructor (you mentioned the ski school) ?

Any idea what the slope angle was ?
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@AndAnotherThing.., pleased to see a reference to slope angle. Perhaps I'm in a minority but all the IFMGa guides that I have skied with preach the gospel of easy angle slopes. We can all have a fab ski on terrain up to 30 degrees.
Once we cross the well documented threshold we are entering the danger zone on a level 3 or level 4 day.
Some of the older snowheads will remember a British mountaineer, Don Whillans. Don's favourite quote was " the mountain will be here tomorrow, make sure you are".
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guide was uiagm, with prob 30+ years of experience.
slope angle varied during the run. the bit that slid was circa 30 degrees, there were several options all much the same. guides view was that it was one of the accidents that can happen despite managing the risks.
i agree with him, and we were skiing similar terrain for the last 2 days, but with better snow as on northern facing
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... slopes. there is probably _some element of heuristics, but it was a route we all were happy doing, and trusted the guide to have assessed the risk as he has the expertise and knowledge to do it.... as we had done on prior and subsequent days.

if we weren't comfortable with the risk, we could have opted not to ski, as some did on Friday when we went back to Marmolada to do the offpiste route down to the dam.

still working out how it will affect my risk assessment in the future, but when the guide says 1x1 In future, I'll be checking the run out area more closely.
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@hamilton, Cheers for the info.
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view from where I landed. the crown wall is visible above the top figure in red, which is more or less where I started.
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[quote="jedster"]
Quote:

One of my ski buddies always takes a moment when we go out with a guide to say "look we want to do some good skiing but we all have wives and kids at home so we'd like you to err on the side of caution". DOn't know if it makes much difference but his point is to release some of that pressure on the guide to deliver the entertainment.


It would be nice if there were more guests like your friend. I see a lot of people come out on ski trips with very high expectations.
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I imagine that most guides, from time to time, feel considerable pressure to do something they would rather not do. People arrive in a resort, possibly for a short period, with a bucket-list of what they plan to ski, eg Valluga Nord, and make that known to the guide. It can almost become emotional blackmail...
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