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Old 07.03.2017, 14:35
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Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

There's been today an avalanche crossing a blue piste in Tignes. Fortunately there were no casualties although for some moments they said that many people could be under the snow and the low visibility was going to make it difficult to rescue the people affected.

I just started skiing last year but I had always thought that the pistes (and surrounding areas) were inspected before opening them and that I was safe staying on-piste, with no need for carrying transceivers, airbags, etc. The avalanche risk is then supposed to be information for people going off-piste. That's what I thought at least.

Any comments? Is this something that happens more often that I thought?
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Old 07.03.2017, 15:20
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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There's been today an avalanche crossing a blue piste in Tignes. Fortunately there were no casualties although for some moments they said that many people could be under the snow and the low visibility was going to make it difficult to rescue the people affected.

I just started skiing last year but I had always thought that the pistes (and surrounding areas) were inspected before opening them and that I was safe staying on-piste, with no need for carrying transceivers, airbags, etc. The avalanche risk is then supposed to be information for people going off-piste. That's what I thought at least.

Any comments? Is this something that happens more often that I thought?
There is absolutely no need to carry airbags or transceivers if you are a beginner on a blue slope. Thats a freak incident and happens very rarely.

Yes, they check the mountains, but the thing about avalanches is that they are not 100% predictable... they normally even trigger them with explosives when necessary to make them go off in the night or before they can grow too large, but some times they misjudge the situation.
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Old 07.03.2017, 15:49
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

Nobody was trapped or seriously hurt, which suggests it maybe didn't go directly over the piste but maybe there were flurries onto the piste enough to knock people down and cover them in a bit of snow.

Something similar happened in Pizol last year - huge avalanche ran down a gully to the side of the piste (by design, that's why the piste is on the ridge), a couple of people were slightly hurt from the air blast and broken glass from some restaurant windows.
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Old 07.03.2017, 16:03
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

What about ski routes (yellow pistes in CH)? I know they are market and not groomed but, are they as risk-free in terms of avalanches as blue, red or black pistes?
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Old 07.03.2017, 16:08
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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What about ski routes (yellow pistes in CH)? I know they are market and not groomed but, are they as risk-free in terms of avalanches as blue, red or black pistes?
I don't think you can generalise, I would say they are most likely deliberately placed in lower risk areas, but as they are not controlled like pistes you should be more cautious.

It would depend on the ski area - you could always ask them, which is easy if you can reference a route.

And if you aren't sure about your own avalanche awareness, don't go. Of the abfahrts routes I've done, most have followed a line I would have chosen as low risk for avalanche, but I've been down a couple which didn't seem so good and I've looked at others from a chair and decided against them based on the conditions.

ps. also, the obvious advantage is that you don't have to be first - if it looks OK, 20 people have been down, and the conditions aren't changing, it's pretty safe; if there's avalanche risk and you aren't sure, let someone else who may be sure and may have all the real off-piste safety kit go first!

Last edited by newtoswitz; 07.03.2017 at 16:11. Reason: added ps
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Old 07.03.2017, 16:16
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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What about ski routes (yellow pistes in CH)? I know they are market and not groomed but, are they as risk-free in terms of avalanches as blue, red or black pistes?
Iteneries should be skied with people equipped for off piste skiing, only the centre is marked so it's quite possible to be in some danger as you find tracks
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Old 07.03.2017, 16:34
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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What about ski routes (yellow pistes in CH)? I know they are market and not groomed but, are they as risk-free in terms of avalanches as blue, red or black pistes?
The yellow marked ski routes I took so far are basically as risk free as other slopes - you just need to check wether that route is actually open or closed. They are not prepared as other slopes but they are checked daily and the operators choose to open or close them depending on the situation.

The vast majority of accidents happen with off piste skiers who are way off any slope and risking it.
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Old 07.03.2017, 17:36
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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The yellow marked ski routes I took so far are basically as risk free as other slopes - you just need to check wether that route is actually open or closed. They are not prepared as other slopes but they are checked daily and the operators choose to open or close them depending on the situation.

The vast majority of accidents happen with off piste skiers who are way off any slope and risking it.
Thats not totally correct, the area is not constantly monitored & risk may change throughout the day. It's also quite possible that an itinerary may be closed after you start the run. You also ignoring the fact that there are no edge markers just a centre mark so it's potentially way more dangerous than a Black run with markers each side.
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Old 07.03.2017, 17:41
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

I think the point here is that they may or may not be patrolled as well as "regular" pistes, most likely not - and even being able to patrol them isn't as straightforward as a piste.

They're designed to be more extreme in terms of snow depth and route, so they are inherently more prone to avalanche. And for that matter rockfall, big holes, bare patches, stumps and everything else.

So use common sense - same as you would when considering skiing a tough black piste in bad weather at the arse-end of a resort - in theory they patrol it, but you have to take responsibility for your own actions.
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Old 07.03.2017, 18:05
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

I am not really planning to go on "yellow" ski routes, it was just out of curiosity. I only did it once in Titlis because it was the only connection between the upper and bottom part of that area of the resort (apart from the cable car) and it was pretty crowded anyway.

Even for black runs, I only ski them when I see more people going there. For instance, I wanted to ski one of the black runs down to Davos Wolfgang a few weeks back, but there was no one going that way, I saw some bare patches already at the top of the slope (btw, it was open) and there was no lift at the bottom of the piste, so I just chose to take the chairlift up and head somewhere else.
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Old 08.03.2017, 12:45
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

Others not so lucky. One confirmed death (think there may be another) and 2 missing in Valfrejus.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39203574
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Old 08.03.2017, 13:55
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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Others not so lucky. One confirmed death (think there may be another) and 2 missing in Valfrejus.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39203574
They were off-piste and lost - so unlucky on one hand, but also back to the responsibility to know what you're doing and where you're doing it.
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Old 08.03.2017, 14:25
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

you are never 100% safe in the mountains. there are rare deaths in ski resorts on pistes too, I recall one event in Verbier maybe 2 years ago.

dangers can be obvious (ie recent heavy snowfall, then mountains above are literally blowing with controlled dynamite/gas explosions), but sometimes it's about 2-month old weak layer one meter below, that just snaps at one moment in otherwise pretty safe conditions.

if you only stay on pistes and do easy skiing, the danger is really, really low (or zero if you pick your routes cleverly). But if you want 100% safety, stay home. streets or driving are dangerous too. personally, i do mostly off-piste and always have beacon, and mostly airbag too.
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Old 08.03.2017, 19:06
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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you are never 100% safe in the mountains. there are rare deaths in ski resorts on pistes too, I recall one event in Verbier maybe 2 years ago.

dangers can be obvious (ie recent heavy snowfall, then mountains above are literally blowing with controlled dynamite/gas explosions), but sometimes it's about 2-month old weak layer one meter below, that just snaps at one moment in otherwise pretty safe conditions.

if you only stay on pistes and do easy skiing, the danger is really, really low (or zero if you pick your routes cleverly). But if you want 100% safety, stay home. streets or driving are dangerous too. personally, i do mostly off-piste and always have beacon, and mostly airbag too.
Nifty. So in summary, you're never 100% safe in the mountains, but there is 0% risk if you pick your routes cleverly. Good input.
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Old 08.03.2017, 19:32
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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you are never 100% safe in the mountains. there are rare deaths in ski resorts on pistes too, I recall one event in Verbier maybe 2 years ago.

dangers can be obvious (ie recent heavy snowfall, then mountains above are literally blowing with controlled dynamite/gas explosions), but sometimes it's about 2-month old weak layer one meter below, that just snaps at one moment in otherwise pretty safe conditions.

if you only stay on pistes and do easy skiing, the danger is really, really low (or zero if you pick your routes cleverly). But if you want 100% safety, stay home. streets or driving are dangerous too. personally, i do mostly off-piste and always have beacon, and mostly airbag too.
Any mountain guide will tell you zero risk does not exist. People have died in Avalanches staying in the Hotel or Chalet's as they do sometimes get hit. 6 Chalets were taken out in the Chamonix Valley about 20 years ago, the area last avalanched in 1904. I have been evacuated from accommodation in the Rouge area of Verbier, this land was made available for sale to foreigners in the 1970's .
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Old 08.03.2017, 22:04
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Re: Avalanche in a blue piste in Tignes

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Nifty. So in summary, you're never 100% safe in the mountains, but there is 0% risk if you pick your routes cleverly. Good input.
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Any mountain guide will tell you zero risk does not exist.
Quite so. And as you well know, but others perhaps less so, the mid-range avalanche risk of 3/5, which is considered the maximum 'safe' level for off-piste skiing (e.g. ski club rules) actually means that the risk of avalanche in the general area is 'considerable'.

Here in Engelberg we see avalanches in certain areas throughout the season, but this year perhaps more than most, with the changing conditions we've seen so far. Fortunately they're mostly in predictable areas, but it's often meant that the only route back to the village is a red run (and an Engelberg red can be nearly black) as the blue is too close to the cliff line, and often seen to covered with avalanche debris.
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