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Old 12.01.2016, 22:01
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Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

Does such a thing exist in Switzerland? (or in nearby countries on the Zurich side)

Coming from the perspective of large US resorts such as Vail, that have very large unpisted area that do have avalanche control, I'm trying to understand if such places exist around here.

(I'm a strong skier, and do have understanding of avalanche risks and have beacon/probe/shovel, but it would be nice to do some freeriding without always having to worry about it)
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Old 12.01.2016, 22:10
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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Does such a thing exist in Switzerland? (or in nearby countries on the Zurich side)

Coming from the perspective of large US resorts such as Vail, that have very large unpisted area that do have avalanche control, I'm trying to understand if such places exist around here.

(I'm a strong skier, and do have understanding of avalanche risks and have beacon/probe/shovel, but it would be nice to do some freeriding without always having to worry about it)
No it does not, your either on piste or your not.

You should carry a transceiver, shovel & probe, ski as a group as your friends will save your life if your caught. The first 15 minutes count, after that by the time mountain rescue arrive they are just looking for bodies. Having said that, since buying an airbag I do sometimes ski alone off piste.

You should probably head for Andermatt nearest 'interesting' off piste to ZH.

In Argentiere (Chamonix) there is some protection in off piste areas, however if it's closed people just go anyway. The lifts have been closed for 4 days now, it's been risk 4/5 for over a week. The first day at level 4, 2 climbers died in an avalanche about 100m from the piste. I was sking there at the time.
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Old 12.01.2016, 22:26
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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Coming from the perspective of large US resorts such as Vail, that have very large unpisted area that do have avalanche control, I'm trying to understand if such places exist around here.
Could you elaborate on what you exactly mean here? Yes, all Swiss resorts monitor the snow in the resort area, and do blast any corniches or areas which are clearly at risk- all the time- but three is never any garantee, be it here or in the USA (I used to ski Steamboat and Winterpark/MaryJane often).

At the moment, resorts have no base and no heavy frost- and lots os snow all of a sudden, so conditions are really quite dangerous off piste, as Fatmansfilm says- so don't go alone, go equipped, and talk to the locals, and listen to what they say. Stay safe.
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Old 12.01.2016, 22:31
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

What is "resort area" in Switzerland? My impression was, as stated by fatmanfilms, that as soon as you're off piste you're on your own and there's no control whatsoever.

I haven't skied at Steamboat or Winterpark, so I can't speak to those, but a classic example would be back bowls of Vail. It's a very large area with no prepared pistes, but is very much inbounds and part of the resort, and as such is avalanche controlled and patrolled. There is zero to minimal risk of avalanche for a regular skier there, and carrying avalanche equipment is not expected.
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Old 12.01.2016, 22:32
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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Could you elaborate on what you exactly mean here? Yes, all Swiss resorts monitor the snow in the resort area, and do blast any corniches or areas which are clearly at risk- all the time- but three is never any garantee, be it here or in the USA (I used to ski Steamboat and Winterpark/MaryJane often).

At the moment, resorts have no base and no heavy frost- and lots os snow all of a sudden, so conditions are really quite dangerous off piste, as Fatmansfilm says- so don't go alone, go equipped, and talk to the locals, and listen to what they say. Stay safe.
He is talking about back bowls where you don't need to ski with a transceiver, nothing like it in Europe, where you are on your own.
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Old 13.01.2016, 07:50
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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Does such a thing exist in Switzerland? (or in nearby countries on the Zurich side)

Coming from the perspective of large US resorts such as Vail, that have very large unpisted area that do have avalanche control, I'm trying to understand if such places exist around here.

(I'm a strong skier, and do have understanding of avalanche risks and have beacon/probe/shovel, but it would be nice to do some freeriding without always having to worry about it)

I spent a lot of time living and working in Whistler, Canada. I skied under the preception that you could ski any where at any time. When i first moved to Switzerland 10 years ago i though the same until locals would ask me what i was doing alone up there. I set of a minor slide in my first winter and it was a big learning curve for me.

No offense to Fatmanfilms as im sure he has experience both on and off the pistes. Just becasue you have all the gear it doesnt make up for having no idea. Again fatmanfilms, no offence intended.

The reason that we ski with airbags is so we have that little bit of extra security when skiing with guests. An experienced guide can find a guest but there is no chance the guest will find the guide if something goes wrong.

As for skiing low angle off-piste alone. Its simple, you are off-piste alone.

Thats my two cents.
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Old 13.01.2016, 08:24
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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No offense to Fatmanfilms as im sure he has experience both on and off the pistes. Just becasue you have all the gear it doesnt make up for having no idea. Again fatmanfilms, no offence intended.
The only time I have been in an avalanche situation was with a UIAGM mountain guide. The person actually was able to stand up & get out unaided.
Mountains are dangerous places approximately 150 people die each year in the mountains in Europe, half in the Chamonix Valley. Mountain Guides & Ski Instructors will also die, so having 'an idea' won't always help.
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An experienced guide can find a guest but there is no chance the guest will find the guide if something goes wrong.
.
A guide should not go off piste with a group until he is satisfied they can use a transceiver, it's quite possible that the guide will get buried especially as he will go first.

Last edited by fatmanfilms; 13.01.2016 at 08:39.
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Old 13.01.2016, 08:52
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

In most cases a guide will show their guests how to use the equipment and do a little training. Most guests have little to no avi training or experience and therefore rely on the guide to keep them safe. In a real life situation when thnings go wrong the guide is generally on their own. Hense my comment about the airbags. I am speaking from a ski school situation where clients have hired an qualified instructor to take them off-piste. With a mountain guide the situation can be different as their clients will mostly have experience.

Your right that the mountains are dangerous places to be sometimes.
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Old 13.01.2016, 09:15
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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In most cases a guide will show their guests how to use the equipment and do a little training. Most guests have little to no avi training or experience and therefore rely on the guide to keep them safe. In a real life situation when thnings go wrong the guide is generally on their own. Hense my comment about the airbags. I am speaking from a ski school situation where clients have hired an qualified instructor to take them off-piste. With a mountain guide the situation can be different as their clients will mostly have experience.

Your right that the mountains are dangerous places to be sometimes.
So everybody is aware not all ski instructors in Switzerland are allowed to take groups off piste & only mountain guides on glaciated terrain.
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Old 13.01.2016, 09:53
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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So everybody is aware not all ski instructors in Switzerland are allowed to take groups off piste & only mountain guides on glaciated terrain.
Good point.
Only qualified instructors that have done all the necessary courses for off-piste guiding and have to proper insurance are aloud away from the pistes. There are very strick guidelines on where and when instructors can go. All areas in Switzerland have been mapped out and certain routes have been made to insure safety of their guests and guides. I will have to look it up but there is also a part in the guidlines that says an instructor can only "tour" so far with guests away from the ski area.
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Old 13.01.2016, 19:05
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

In les Deux Alps 12 kids caught in an Avalanche, 2 dead, 3 seriously injured & 5 missing. They were indeed skiing with a ski instructor.

http://www.leparisien.fr/faits-diver...16-5447365.php
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Old 13.01.2016, 20:59
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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In les Deux Alps 12 kids caught in an Avalanche, 2 dead, 3 seriously injured & 5 missing. They were indeed skiing with a ski instructor.

http://www.leparisien.fr/faits-diver...16-5447365.php
Here is another article on the situation in EN.

"Horror in the French Alps as three die and up to TWENTY are missing as avalanche hits party of school children after they IGNORED warnings not to go out on closed black ski-run"

Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ren-adult.html
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Old 17.01.2016, 07:53
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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In les Deux Alps 12 kids caught in an Avalanche, 2 dead, 3 seriously injured & 5 missing. They were indeed skiing with a ski instructor.

http://www.leparisien.fr/faits-diver...16-5447365.php

Very sad news. We were just agreeing that the mountains are dangerous places. With a ski instructor or a school teacher, it doesnt matter. The group shouldn't of been there. Closed is closed.
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Old 17.01.2016, 08:21
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

Back to the original question, the marked "yellow" ski routes in Switzerland are normally avalanche safe (if marked as open) but not groomed. I'm not sure if they are actively patrolled - I think I've seen different information on different piste maps, so it may be resort dependent. This is of course, hardly the large areas you might be used to in the US, but it may be the closest you can find.

With regards to gear and training, I'd say that knowing how to search with a beacon and probe is pretty much the minimum and (hopefully) makes you not useless if somebody else gets into trouble. However, for a group as a whole, such gear should be absolute last line of defense and much more risk reduction comes from being avalanche aware and making good decisions. Offloading of these decisions to an experienced expert is a big part of why you'd pay a guide.
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Old 17.01.2016, 08:41
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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Back to the original question, the marked "yellow" ski routes in Switzerland are normally avalanche safe (if marked as open) but not groomed. I'm not sure if they are actively patrolled - I think I've seen different information on different piste maps, so it may be resort dependent. This is of course, hardly the large areas you might be used to in the US, but it may be the closest you can find.



With regards to gear and training, I'd say that knowing how to search with a beacon and probe is pretty much the minimum and (hopefully) makes you not useless if somebody else gets into trouble. However, for a group as a whole, such gear should be absolute last line of defense and much more risk reduction comes from being avalanche aware and making good decisions. Offloading of these decisions to an experienced expert is a big part of why you'd pay a guide.

It should be protected where the marker is, however if your skiing fresh tracks 50 meters either side then your must make your own decisions. Level 3 is still considerable risk on steeper slopes
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Old 17.01.2016, 19:40
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

I was out skiing today and weve had about 30+ cm of snow fall in Lenzerheide over the past 2 days but there has been just as much wind blown added. I can't speak for other areas but untill the wind dies down and the snow pack settles it's very very dangerous. We have no base to speak of and it was very easy to scrap away the fresh snow down to the ground today. Anything the slides will go all the way down to the rocks and grass.

Be very carfull out there
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Old 17.01.2016, 20:24
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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I was out skiing today and weve had about 30+ cm of snow fall in Lenzerheide over the past 2 days but there has been just as much wind blown added. I can't speak for other areas but untill the wind dies down and the snow pack settles it's very very dangerous. We have no base to speak of and it was very easy to scrap away the fresh snow down to the ground today. Anything the slides will go all the way down to the rocks and grass.

Be very carfull out there
That's a very reason I don't go skiing just yet. I know I would want more from a great day in the mountains than mere sticking to on-piste runs. That very temptation is dangerous as the snowpacks are very unstable at the moment and risk of avalanches is very high. It will take many days of good snowfall for the snow to become more compact and the temperature must also be right for the snowpack not to get loose and move unexpectedly. In my experience and observations simply not enough snow and factors satisfying safe trips. Keep on waiting and always plan safe skiing.
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Old 17.01.2016, 22:00
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

Well to a point. Some resorts offer marked ski routes that are unprepared but controlled which I guess fulfill a similar function. Usually marked yellow on Piste maps. St Anton has quite a lot.

Just don't expect powder longer than 1 hour after the lifts open after new snow.
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Old 18.01.2016, 08:10
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

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That's a very reason I don't go skiing just yet. I know I would want more from a great day in the mountains than mere sticking to on-piste runs. That very temptation is dangerous as the snowpacks are very unstable at the moment and risk of avalanches is very high. It will take many days of good snowfall for the snow to become more compact and the temperature must also be right for the snowpack not to get loose and move unexpectedly. In my experience and observations simply not enough snow and factors satisfying safe trips. Keep on waiting and always plan safe skiing.
Areas that frequently get skied are always much safer, as the continual passage of skiers bonds the layers. Plenty of off piste places in the Chamonix valley started being skied late November so there was a reasonable base before Christmas. Pretty much all the lifts opened yesterday so conditions at least in Chamonix are fairly stable.
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Old 18.01.2016, 09:54
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Re: Off-piste avalanche-secured skiing

I'm a decent skier, not amazing, but there really isn't a piste I can't tackle. In CH, when I go off-piste, I always go with a guide. It is pricey, but the piece of mind is well worth it. Usually we go to a normal resort where we meet the guide, they'll usually take us to find powder within the range of the lifts, or with a short walk or trek. I find that most resorts know of the off piste within their area and do make an effort to have it relatively safe---but they always stress, they are not monitored.


When I was younger riding back-country in BC and Alberta, I never imagined about getting a guide, the increased risk is that in Western Canada---if you make a bad turn, you could be lost for weeks! Here in CH it's not as likely to get lost :P
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