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  #21  
Old 25.03.2011, 08:11
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents in GR

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Those avalanches do NOT result out of nothing, and can be seen developing for quarter-hours or more. At worst you may "create" such an avalanche when being "up" still and then when being below get caught by "your" product
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B) 15 minutes in advance ? hardly ... you only can try to reduce YOUR contribution to avalanches AND you can try to avoid areas in question
Actually Wolli you were the one to claim that you can see an avalanche developing 15 minutes in advance. As Eire rightly says, this is rubbish

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C) you refer to speedy skiers. But I never was a speedy one. I needed my time, and needed an hour to cover a distance for what my older brother needed a few minutes
I can't see where Eire refers to speedy skiers at all. However you may be interested to learn that a slow skier is actually more likely to set off an avalanche than a fast one - more and sharper corners and more stopping leading to more pressure on the snow pack.

FWIW I was up and about last Sunday and conditions were questionable. About 25cm of new powder on top of a well frozen crust and practically no adhesion between the two layers - any slope above about 30° was suspect. However 25cm is not THAT much and it takes a very long run to build up any critical volume. I saw 3 avalanches set off by other skiers/boarders (btw all just as the person concerned stopped) but all ground to a halt after 30 or 40 metres and were still too shallow to have done any serious damage.

Last edited by baboon; 25.03.2011 at 08:23.
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  #22  
Old 25.03.2011, 09:06
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

The Sea and the Mountains have a lot in common. And those who are born and bred in either of those environment will develop a '6th' sense, an understanding/respect of it, and also a sense of anticipation. They will 'read the signs', feel them- and have seen the results of a group of factors taken together many times. Nowadays, a lot of people learn to ski or snowboard very quickly and become proficient and at times incredibly talented. But they lack that longterm understanding and respect- and sadly put themselves at great risk- as well as others around them + of course the rescuers (men and women, often with families, who risk their own life). Accidents can happen to the most experienced and the extremely well prepared - but more often than not happen to people whose skills have vastly overtaken their knowledge and common sense. If I use a guide, I don't go for the young doctor's son from Geneva or London, but for the older guy who has lived in those very mountains all his life and KNOWS how to read it, feel it- the history of the layers for the season and of avalanches over the centuries, from his dad and grand-dad and other local guides.
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Old 25.03.2011, 10:16
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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The Sea and the Mountains have a lot in common. And those who are born and bred in either of those environment will develop a '6th' sense, an understanding/respect of it, and also a sense of anticipation. They will 'read the signs', feel them- and have seen the results of a group of factors taken together many times.
This has been documented. The skill that these people have is what other people wrongly refer to as luck.

It's not luck at all but the intuition that you describe.
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Old 25.03.2011, 10:55
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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The Sea and the Mountains have a lot in common. And those who are born and bred in either of those environment will develop a '6th' sense, an understanding/respect of it, and also a sense of anticipation. They will 'read the signs', feel them- and have seen the results of a group of factors taken together many times. Nowadays, a lot of people learn to ski or snowboard very quickly and become proficient and at times incredibly talented. But they lack that longterm understanding and respect- and sadly put themselves at great risk- as well as others around them + of course the rescuers (men and women, often with families, who risk their own life). Accidents can happen to the most experienced and the extremely well prepared - but more often than not happen to people whose skills have vastly overtaken their knowledge and common sense. If I use a guide, I don't go for the young doctor's son from Geneva or London, but for the older guy who has lived in those very mountains all his life and KNOWS how to read it, feel it- the history of the layers for the season and of avalanches over the centuries, from his dad and grand-dad and other local guides.
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This has been documented. The skill that these people have is what other people wrongly refer to as luck.

It's not luck at all but the intuition that you describe.
I agree, I grew up around the ocean. Spent every free moment in, around, or on the ocean from a young age. The ocean was my life until I moved to Switzerland, I made my living from it and it was my playground when I wasn't working. One part of my job was actually to teach rescue boat drivers for water-sports centres and to cover sailing events. I even got to train with the RAF air-sea rescue services at one point.

When I moved here the mountains seemed so alien. Over time when I met people that grew up here it was really interesting to see the similarities in how we perceived what for us were our natural environments. Having seen people get themselves into serious trouble on the ocean, it also made me realise how little I knew about the mountains and how much there is to learn. The thing is you can't learn a lot of this knowledge, so much comes down to experience and observation. The only way of getting this is by actually going out there. For me what's most important is to try to learn as much background as possible to try to help you to stay safe, try not step too far out of your safety zone, always have a back up plan and try to learn something every time you go out in the mountains. I still don't have the experience needed to be able to do some stuff that I'd like, but I will quite often say no to a route that I am not sure of, or just not go with a group I don't trust.

I quite often look at the SLF statistics for accidents. I'm not going to post the link because I don't want it to be fodder for nay sayers. But for me it's interesting to get the maps out and read back through the avalanche bulletin, weather forecast etc and ask myself would I have put myself in that situation. i.e. would I have planned a tour myself in that area on that day (First filter level of 3x3 for those who know it). Sometimes it's a sobering reminder of how important experience is, and that sometimes even that isn't enough.

The mountains have slowly started to fill the void left from moving away from the ocean, I'm not going to stop doing what I love to do in them but I will try to educate myself as well as I can to try to stay safe out there. Even with years of experience I wasn't always guaranteed safety on the ocean either and in both places experts die every year.

I personally think all things being equal in terms of skill and experience you have more chance of survival if the sh!t hits the fan on the ocean though.
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Old 25.03.2011, 13:41
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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This has been documented. The skill that these people have is what other people wrongly refer to as luck.

It's not luck at all but the intuition that you describe.
When I used to climb mountains (i.e. the kind that required gear and training not just day hikes in the hills) my motto was always 'Listen to the locals'. You could always get some invaluable advice and updates by buying someone a beer or two.
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Old 25.03.2011, 22:59
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents in GR

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Actually Wolli you were the one to claim that you can see an avalanche developing 15 minutes in advance. As Eire rightly says, this is rubbish


I can't see where Eire refers to speedy skiers at all. However you may be interested to learn that a slow skier is actually more likely to set off an avalanche than a fast one - more and sharper corners and more stopping leading to more pressure on the snow pack.

FWIW I was up and about last Sunday and conditions were questionable. About 25cm of new powder on top of a well frozen crust and practically no adhesion between the two layers - any slope above about 30° was suspect. However 25cm is not THAT much and it takes a very long run to build up any critical volume. I saw 3 avalanches set off by other skiers/boarders (btw all just as the person concerned stopped) but all ground to a halt after 30 or 40 metres and were still too shallow to have done any serious damage.
Oh yes, I omitted something VERY important, so sorry, and that is that you CAN SEE it indeed if advised by a knowledgeable skiing instructor ! Those chaps are even able to start a "mini-avalanche" themselves just to demostrate what they mean.

And right again you are down the text with stating that a slow skier may be more likely to "start" an avalanche, not least as a slow one will often apply the "Stemm-Christi" sending tons of snow downwards ! while the fast one will pass down with some elegant "Christis"
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Old 25.03.2011, 23:16
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents in GR

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Oh yes, I omitted something VERY important, so sorry, and that is that you CAN SEE it indeed if advised by a knowledgeable skiing instructor ! Those chaps are even able to start a "mini-avalanche" themselves just to demostrate what they mean.

And right again you are down the text with stating that a slow skier may be more likely to "start" an avalanche, not least as a slow one will often apply the "Stemm-Christi" sending tons of snow downwards ! while the fast one will pass down with some elegant "Christis"
Ski instructors have no formal avalanche training. The only people "qualified" to lead groups off-piste or give avalanche training are guides.
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Old 26.03.2011, 01:12
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents in GR

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Ski instructors have no formal avalanche training. The only people "qualified" to lead groups off-piste or give avalanche training are guides.
Legally correct of course, but most of them have the "knowledge" required. And many of them have been in courses for off-piste skiing.

The most interesting skiing week was in Flims when I with a schoolfriend each morning was in class but on our own in the afternoon. At lunch we always discussed our ideas with our trusted instructor who gave valuable advice. We did not care about formal authorisations but trusted this man. I think trusted correctly
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Old 26.03.2011, 07:35
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents in GR

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Legally correct of course, but most of them have the "knowledge" required. And many of them have been in courses for off-piste skiing.

The most interesting skiing week was in Flims when I with a schoolfriend each morning was in class but on our own in the afternoon. At lunch we always discussed our ideas with our trusted instructor who gave valuable advice. We did not care about formal authorisations but trusted this man. I think trusted correctly
Based on what you've said here I think it might be worth while for you to do an avalanche course with a proper guide and have a read of one of these books.

3x3 Werner Munter, (German Only)
The Powder Guide, Tobias Kurzeder (German and English versions)

Some of what you have said shows at least some misunderstanding. I don't claim to be an expert but the more you can reduce any misunderstandings the safer you can be if you leave the controlled runs. Even if I am with a qualified guide I check the route myself on a map and the avalanche bulletin before I go. At the end of the day YOU are the only person that can decide if the level of risk is something you want to accept. You can pay someone to make the route safer but you should learn as much as you can so you can participate actively in your own safety and be useful to the group if an accident does happen. Being with a guide is no excuse for not having suitable training and being with an instructor is not being with a guide.
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Old 26.03.2011, 21:48
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

Avalanche in Valais kills four French people

Four French skiers were killed after an avalanche swept them away near Switzerland's southern border with Italy, police reported on Saturday

Another person is said to be missing.

One of a team of 11 was able to free himself to raise the alarm, the Swiss News Agency , said on Saturday. Five in the group suffered injuries.

The incident happened on Mont Velan, a towering 3,730-metre peak that straddles the Swiss-Italian border.

Switzerland's National Avalanche Centre had warned of a “considerable” risk of snowslides in the region on Saturday.


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Old 26.03.2011, 21:50
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Hi,

The only time I have been in an avalanche situation was with a guide, who tried to set of a small slide without success. He skied the slope, then I followed, the 3rd skier was caught. Amazingly he was able to stand up & punch his way out.

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Ski instructors have no formal avalanche training. The only people "qualified" to lead groups off-piste or give avalanche training are guides.
Ski instructors with full international qualifications do indeed have to pass a mountain craft module which includes avalanche training. In France Ski instructers have to take part in Avalanche rescue if there is an Avalanche.

Ski instructors are alowed to take people off piste execpt on GLACIATED terain.

Conciderable risk is level 3 out of 5, thats when the majority of peeple will die in Avalanches. In France it's over 60% & in Switzerland over 80%

The levels are:-
1) Low
2) Moderate
3) Conciderable
4) High
5) Extreame

Interestingly I have seen 3 translated as medium

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Avalanche in Valais kills four French people

Four French skiers were killed after an avalanche swept them away near Switzerland's southern border with Italy, police reported on Saturday

Another person is said to be missing.

One of a team of 11 was able to free himself to raise the alarm, the Swiss News Agency , said on Saturday. Five in the group suffered injuries.

The incident happened on Mont Velan, a towering 3,730-metre peak that straddles the Swiss-Italian border.

Switzerland's National Avalanche Centre had warned of a “considerable” risk of snowslides in the region on Saturday.


Swissinfo

Last edited by jrspet; 26.03.2011 at 22:15. Reason: Merging of successive posts
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  #32  
Old 26.03.2011, 23:18
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents in GR

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Based on what you've said here I think it might be worth while for you to do an avalanche course with a proper guide and have a read of one of these books.

3x3 Werner Munter, (German Only)
The Powder Guide, Tobias Kurzeder (German and English versions)

Some of what you have said shows at least some misunderstanding. I don't claim to be an expert but the more you can reduce any misunderstandings the safer you can be if you leave the controlled runs. Even if I am with a qualified guide I check the route myself on a map and the avalanche bulletin before I go. At the end of the day YOU are the only person that can decide if the level of risk is something you want to accept. You can pay someone to make the route safer but you should learn as much as you can so you can participate actively in your own safety and be useful to the group if an accident does happen. Being with a guide is no excuse for not having suitable training and being with an instructor is not being with a guide.
Why do so many people who have studied such books and are advised by such "qualified" guides get into such accidents ? Because they mean that practical situations can be mastered by theoretical knowledge. But very often, the required "wisdom" has not to be in your head but in your a..... !! People in the Swiss mountains tend to survive and stay secured due to practical "knowledge". I have been, each year for a week, between age 8 and age 18, around with such instructors, and was absolutely sure to have the right support and still am. We in military service were under the command of our Captain who was an architect from Davos, not a guide, but his commands were clearly up to what was needed. Alright, in October/November, situations tend to be rather harmless, sure. Nevertheless, if you need advice up in the mountains, talk with locals, talk with the owner of the restaurant, etc. I would rather give my trust to the owner of the local souvenir-shop than such a "licenced" chap !
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Old 26.03.2011, 23:55
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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Hi,

The only time I have been in an avalanche situation was with a guide, who tried to set of a small slide without success. He skied the slope, then I followed, the 3rd skier was caught. Amazingly he was able to stand up & punch his way out.



Ski instructors with full international qualifications do indeed have to pass a mountain craft module which includes avalanche training. In France Ski instructers have to take part in Avalanche rescue if there is an Avalanche.

Ski instructors are alowed to take people off piste execpt on GLACIATED terain.

Conciderable risk is level 3 out of 5, thats when the majority of peeple will die in Avalanches. In France it's over 60% & in Switzerland over 80%

The levels are:-
1) Low
2) Moderate
3) Conciderable
4) High
5) Extreame

Interestingly I have seen 3 translated as medium
Technically this doesn't hold true for Switzerland. There are runs which instructors do take students on in deep snow, but they are usually ones that have been made safe by the resort to some extent or another.

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Why do so many people who have studied such books and are advised by such "qualified" guides get into such accidents ? Because they mean that practical situations can be mastered by theoretical knowledge. But very often, the required "wisdom" has not to be in your head but in your a..... !! People in the Swiss mountains tend to survive and stay secured due to practical "knowledge". I have been, each year for a week, between age 8 and age 18, around with such instructors, and was absolutely sure to have the right support and still am. We in military service were under the command of our Captain who was an architect from Davos, not a guide, but his commands were clearly up to what was needed. Alright, in October/November, situations tend to be rather harmless, sure. Nevertheless, if you need advice up in the mountains, talk with locals, talk with the owner of the restaurant, etc. I would rather give my trust to the owner of the local souvenir-shop than such a "licenced" chap !
Really? Hmm... I guess you've never heard about early season Avalanches due to a thin snow pack having a large temperature difference between the ground and the snow. Early season Avalanches are a reality.

I never doubted experience being important, every guide I've been with also says the same thing, it's experience, if you read my earlier posts you'll see I say how important experience is. However, you have to learn somehow and gain that experience. Going with people more experience AND educating yourself in any way you can are the only ways of doing that. You can put blind trust in people if you like but there is no way I'd personally do that.

Speaking of the Army, you do remember the Jungfrau accident a few years back? Even the Army don't always get it right. I've heard in passing about a number of other Army accidents in the mountains too.
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  #34  
Old 27.03.2011, 11:14
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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Technically this doesn't hold true for Switzerland. There are runs which instructors do take students on in deep snow, but they are usually ones that have been made safe by the resort to some extent or another.
Those are called Itineries, many of which were previousely Black runs. (In Verbier, Tortan, Plan de Fou & Col de Gentieres come to mind)

I have known pistes which open to be Avalanched, so made 'safer' rather than safe! There is never zero risk in the mountains.
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Old 27.03.2011, 11:21
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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Really? Hmm... I guess you've never heard about early season Avalanches due to a thin snow pack having a large temperature difference between the ground and the snow. Early season Avalanches are a reality.
.
Unfortunately the extreamly cold conditions at the beginning of the season caused a weak bonding at the base. In most cases that weak bonding is still there which is why many of the avalanches have been down to gtound level.

The ground is at approximately 0 degrees, if he air temperature is different by more than 1 degree per 10cm ofsnow, thats when the dangerous 'goblet' ecrystals oeccur. They are a sugar texture that don't stick together unless it gets very warm, melt & refreeze.
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Old 27.03.2011, 18:05
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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Unfortunately the extreamly cold conditions at the beginning of the season caused a weak bonding at the base. In most cases that weak bonding is still there which is why many of the avalanches have been down to gtound level.

The ground is at approximately 0 degrees, if he air temperature is different by more than 1 degree per 10cm ofsnow, thats when the dangerous 'goblet' ecrystals oeccur. They are a sugar texture that don't stick together unless it gets very warm, melt & refreeze.
Thanks, that's put it a bit more eloquently than I can.
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Old 27.03.2011, 21:36
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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Really? Hmm... I guess you've never heard about early season Avalanches due to a thin snow pack having a large temperature difference between the ground and the snow. Early season Avalanches are a reality.

I never doubted experience being important, every guide I've been with also says the same thing, it's experience, if you read my earlier posts you'll see I say how important experience is. However, you have to learn somehow and gain that experience. Going with people more experience AND educating yourself in any way you can are the only ways of doing that. You can put blind trust in people if you like but there is no way I'd personally do that.

Speaking of the Army, you do remember the Jungfrau accident a few years back? Even the Army don't always get it right. I've heard in passing about a number of other Army accidents in the mountains too.
> I have heard about those early season avalanches for decades, but I compared late autumn with spring, therefore the word "relatively"
> You should not put "blind" trust into anything, and if you have got some experience of your own, it will be quite helpful. There are situations when nobody is around to advise you but you then can take profit of what you have learnt from good advisors and from your experience
> even the army ? You forget here that in the Swiss army, more than 90% of folks are from areas below 800 meters above sea-level, and so NOT from the mountains. Luckily enough, lots got some practical experience and some education in skiing holiday, school excursions etc. Beside the point that also the most experienced and most excellently educated men can make a mistake.
> in case of the Captain I mentioned we not only trusted in his knowlege and his common sense, but always were told by him to use OUR common sense, to use OUR personal experience, to use OUR knowledge

>> and let's never forget that the mountains are potentially dangerous always, and that a certain risk always remains
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Old 31.03.2011, 00:35
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

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Conciderable risk is level 3 out of 5, thats when the majority of peeple will die in Avalanches. In France it's over 60% & in Switzerland over 80%

The levels are:-
1) Low
2) Moderate
3) Conciderable
4) High
5) Extreame

Interestingly I have seen 3 translated as medium
Actually the reason for the high death rate for level 3 is that pretty well no-one goes touring (and certainly not in terrain > 30°) in a 4 or 5. No or nearly no people = no deaths. Simples. I'm guessing the French are a bit more daredevil.......

Serious avalanches are considerably less common in a "2".

At times, 3's seem to the the SLF's way of saying "We're not certain". I've been out this winter in 3's that were clearly relatively low risk. Other times you would make certain you stuck to safe ground.
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  #39  
Old 01.04.2011, 19:26
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

Quote:
Actually the reason for the high death rate for level 3 is that pretty well no-one goes touring (and certainly not in terrain > 30°) in a 4 or 5. No or nearly no people = no deaths. Simples. I'm guessing the French are a bit more daredevil.......
.
Hi,

Whilst you may not start out on a tour with an avalanche risk of 4, weather can change quickly, so on a tour of several days or even a week there is a reasonable chance of skiing in those conditions.

FWIW I was in Tignes in December, the risk was 4, I skied over to Val D'isere & it was 3. Pretty sure many people skiing in Tignes had come from Val & believed the risk to be 3.
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Old 01.04.2011, 22:07
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Re: 4 skiers die in avalanche accidents ( 3 in GR & 1 in BE )

3 Germans die in another avalanche

Quote:
Valais cantonal police say three German ski tourers have been killed by an avalanche on Friday in the mountains near Ayer.

The avalanche swept away nine people in all – one person is injured and five managed to escape, it has been reported.

The group came from the Friedrichshafen area of Germany on Lake Constance. No more details have been released.

Rescuers said the avalanche was “gigantic”, around 500 metres long and 500 metres across.

More on Swissinfo EN
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