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Old 23.12.2008, 10:57
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

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Hello there!

Hearing about all these avalanches in the newspapers all the time has made me start thinking to buy some protection.

I'm used to snowboarding in Canada, where there is a huge amount of off-piste which is avalanche controlled, meaning you don't need any protection once you stay within the bounded areas.

I've been snowboarding mostly in verbier and almost never ride on piste, theres tonnes of great off-piste relatively close to lifts there etc.. I'm not talking about hiking for hours to really deserted areas, but you know like small little hikes (15-30 minutes) or just big traverses to get some fresh lines.
The alps have a unique situation being a natural barrier to weather fronts, unlike the vast expanses in north America. This also means that weather conditions can be quite extreme as far as precipitation intensity, snow dryness, temp excursions, all factors which will significantly affect avalanche conditions. I used to snowboard myself back in '85 (yes 1985...) - 1995. That kind of climate and snowfall quality has dramatically changed. My buddies who still 'board are very wary of those 10 minute quickies ... it's incredible what can happen even just 10 meters from the roped off area. And if it's roped off, it's usually for a good reason. I'll add that especially traverses seem to be the cause of avalanches, as the long straight track seems to help the unstable snowmass to tear away.

I was snowboarding once in Celerina and had stopped just off the regular slope when one of those avalanche mines went off somewhere. I'll never forget the sinking sensation of feeling the whole snow mass move under the board. Luckily it was close to the trees so the movement did not develop into something else. Had I been somewhere else - who knows?

Last but not least I'd study what the legal implications of triggering an avalanche which causes damage to property or lives. I have the feeling that individuals, resorts and townships are much more aggressive now in punishing these kind of incidents (if the guilty part is still alive, that is). And I have heard that slope policing is now actively going after those who intentionally are skiing / 'boarding off the regular slopes. This apparently has to do with the contractual conditions that engage you to the slope operator when you buy your day ticket.

Having said all of this - all of this white stuff on the hills here in Ticino is making me itch for a - safe - day of powdery freeriding....

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