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Old 02.02.2015, 11:04
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Avalanche situation and warning

Guess this weekend's sad news from Prättigau (20 min link) kind of hit home as Piz Valen is a mountain I know pretty well. So sad to hear about the deaths of those skiers. You're out there trying to enjoy life and nature's beauty and then you don't come home. Tragic.

With the earlier avalanche that went down above Arvenbühl just below the Gulmen also being an area I know very well from runs, hikes and snowshoeing, locations that seem fairly passive can become deathtraps if you're not aware of how to avoid the warning signs.

Please think about where you're headed if you're venturing out in these conditions. Avalanches don't just happen at high altitudes either, I just saw a minor one come down below a road at less than 800 meters asl in Elm Saturday. If you're not sure, choose open U shaped valleys that have a wide valley floor. Equip yourself with locator beacons, shovels and the gear you need to keep safe.

If just one of you thinks twice before setting off inappropriately, then this thread will have served its purpose.

Enjoy your winter. Safely. Switzerland is meant to be explored.
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Old 02.02.2015, 15:06
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

There are lot of signs, factors like temperature , different layers, and a large etcetera. And we can make an idea before of the real status through White Risk website and app. But some times the avalanches trap people without experience, that isn't aware of the real hazard.
I'm not really experienced mountaineer/snowboarder, however I try to learn everyday and keep myself in alert when the conditions are not in our favour.
On Saturday i was in verbier freeriding and I must say that sometimes I didn't feel safe with the snowpack, so I decided to turn around a pick other run.
Happy Ride! But safe one!!
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Old 02.02.2015, 15:09
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

Terrible tragedies- but I'm afraid, anyone who decides to go off-piste after the biggest snow falls in a very long time and on a very unstable base with a variety of unstable layers- needs their brain seriously examined. It was clear to all that this week-end was going to be very dangerous. An interesting article in Le Matin today, by avalanche and mountain experts- about how some people just 'go mad' and cannot resist massive risks. So tragic- and so avoidable.

Locators, air bags, shovels and the like are indeed so useful in expert hands- but sadly, again- give people with limited experience of the mountain a false sense of security. Modern skis also open off-piste terrain to less able skiers that are totally unable to cope with emergencies.
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Old 02.02.2015, 15:13
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

Not that it affects the overall message, but Swiss Alpine Adventure site reported that 11 people lost their lives on Swiss mountains over the past three days.

Sadly, this type of situation isn't unique. Last year 12 people lost their lives in a 10-day period.

I guess that the majority of peole are fully aware of the risks but it doesn't do any harm to remind people to give their safety serious thought
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Old 02.02.2015, 15:35
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Terrible tragedies- but I'm afraid, anyone who decides to go off-piste after the biggest snow falls in a very long time and on a very unstable base with a variety of unstable layers- needs their brain seriously examined.
I don't know any of the people involved in these tragedies of the last few days, but by and large it's not psychiatry, but education, that's needed.

It's so easy with modern kit, and so trendy thanks to extreme ski competitions, youtube videos, etc. etc. that almost any Tom Dick or Harry with a couple of weeks' skiing or snowboarding experience can easily get themselves into potential danger areas without being even vaguely aware of the risks.

I think there's a tendency in some inexperienced people to think that the avalanches they've heard about only happen in real backcountry areas: it's not that they consciously decide that more easily-accessible areas are safer, just that they don't associate them with the danger they hear about.

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Equip yourself with locator beacons, shovels and the gear you need to keep safe.
And learn how to use them! I see a lot of people now with airbag-rucksacks, very new looking, and often wonder if they've actually had any training about snow safety, how to abvoid or mitigate risk, and how to use the safety equipment they're carrying.

All the gear...
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Old 02.02.2015, 15:43
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

I had two trips last weekend suddenly canceled for certain reasons---took it as a sign that I wasn't meant to ski this weekend.

Although I always do backcountry with a local guide and basic safety gear (beacon, shovel, etc.), I read somewhere that one of the tragic groups were with an experienced guide and all had beacons.

Be safe when you're out there---we finally have snow so lets try and enjoy it!
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Old 02.02.2015, 15:52
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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It's so easy with modern kit, and so trendy thanks to extreme ski competitions, youtube videos, etc. etc. that almost any Tom Dick or Harry with a couple of weeks' skiing or snowboarding experience can easily get themselves into potential danger areas without being even vaguely aware of the risks.
When I read the news to OH, he said the same thing. The videos on youtube or Red Bull sites seem to push young people to re-enact what they see. A form of peer pressure, if you will. Without the proper training, there are some drastic consequences.
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Old 02.02.2015, 16:08
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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I don't know any of the people involved in these tragedies of the last few days, but by and large it's not psychiatry, but education, that's needed.
I'd say, both. The expert discussing this in Le Matin today, and the Lecturer at the conference on risk taking I attended last week- which was based on the history of mountain climbing in Switzerland and Whymper's first ascent of the Matterhorn 150 years ago- gave good evidence of the increased hunger for risks by some sections of the modern Western population. When people live or lived in day to day survival situations full of natural danger- danger was something they would never choose- whereas for some youngsters today, permanently living on a knife-edge and playing Russian roulette with daily life, seems like the only way to make life worth while living (and dying).

The Swiss peasants in the Zermatt area 150 years ago- thought that Whymper and the London elites were totally bonkers for wanting to climb the Matterhorn- daily life in itself was full of the most unimaginable dangers just trying to survive- why go look for it???

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Old 02.02.2015, 16:17
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

On a lighter note..

I attempted to go ski at Crozet on saturday morning, roads leading to the station we're sheet ice and i decided that for a couple of hours skiing i wasn't gonna take the risk or bother putting on the chains. So went to Jims brittish market for full english breakfast instead.

Tried Sunday again, went later this time, afternoon, got to the car park, spent 30 mins getting me and the 5 year old ready and got to the telecabin just as it got black flagged and closed. Went sledging instead.
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Old 02.02.2015, 22:30
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

Why stay at home? Is it better to read the newspaper with a nice coffee than to have a unforgettable morning at 2500m with your mates? I still can't forget the happiness this saturday, the smiles of the people riding with me, shouting out because of the adrenaline.

Dying? I bet anyone leave home in the morning thinking that he/she is not going to come back. I don't drive thinking that I'm going to die in an accident, but there's a percentage saying that I may not come back. We are surrounded of dangers, however we still enjoy our lives.

Referring to an avalanche in Verbier on thursday, 5 people were caught on it, one girl (17yo) died on Saturday, they were normal skiers, not freeriders looking for a line, they even weren't in an exposed face, it was just bad luck.
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Old 02.02.2015, 22:49
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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Referring to an avalanche in Verbier on thursday, 5 people were caught on it, one girl (17yo) died on Saturday, they were normal skiers, not freeriders looking for a line, they even weren't in an exposed face, it was just bad luck.
No avalanche transceivers or other safety equipment going on a route that was closed to skiers due to the avalanche danger.
Probably skiing too close together too.

You make your own 'luck'.
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Old 02.02.2015, 22:55
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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No avalanche transceivers or other safety equipment going on a route that was closed to skiers due to the avalanche danger.

Probably skiing too close together too.



You make your own 'luck'.

True! I forgot about that!! Just the girl needed to be rescued, the others 4 were not burried by the avalanche, and unfortunately she is not alive.
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Old 03.02.2015, 11:40
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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It's so easy with modern kit, and so trendy thanks to extreme ski competitions, youtube videos, etc. etc. that almost any Tom Dick or Harry with a couple of weeks' skiing or snowboarding experience can easily get themselves into potential danger areas without being even vaguely aware of the risks.
On the other hand, lets not forget that your advice doesn't just apply to new boarders and skiers.

Last year I did an avalanche training course in Interlaken and our guide told us that a fellow guide had been caught and killed the previous year in a small avalanche close to the piste. As he told us he pointed to the spot a hundred metres away where it happened and it was a very unremarkable looking slope.

The guide who died was very experienced but had only been working in Interlaken for a year. He knew the impact of prevailing wind conditions on that slope but very unusually there had been a counter directional windstorm the day before and so dangerous deposits had built up in an atypical way for the face.

It taught us a somber lesson.
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Old 03.02.2015, 12:06
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

What about walking on snowshoes? Big groups walking really close each other, without knowledge and awareness of avalanche, because snowshoeing isn't as 'dangerous' as skiing or snowboarding.

Any outdoor activities on snow conditions are exposed to an avalanche risk. Today I read an article about two deaths last Friday in the Black Forest (Germany), near Feldberg which is not really high peak 1493m, what a tragedy this weekend....
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Old 03.02.2015, 12:17
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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What about walking on snowshoes? Big groups walking really close each other, without knowledge and awareness of avalanche, because snowshoeing isn't as 'dangerous' as skiing or snowboarding.

Any outdoor activities on snow conditions are exposed to an avalanche risk. Today I read an article about two deaths last Friday in the Black Forest (Germany), near Feldberg which is not really high peak 1493m, what a tragedy this weekend....
It doesn't matter what you're doing, the rules are the same. When I lead a snowshoe group and the terrain looks trickier up ahead, I'll tell the group to spread out with at least 25 meters between us. Just had this at the weekend when a narrow path by a river needed some caution. I went ahead to ensure that there was actually ground under the snow mass rather than a bunch of air waiting to collapse.
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Old 03.02.2015, 12:41
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Re: Avalanche situation and warning

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It doesn't matter what you're doing, the rules are the same. When I lead a snowshoe group and the terrain looks trickier up ahead, I'll tell the group to spread out with at least 25 meters between us. Just had this at the weekend when a narrow path by a river needed some caution. I went ahead to ensure that there was actually ground under the snow mass rather than a bunch of air waiting to collapse.
Did you put your underpants on the outside and wear your cape for that part?
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