The last 48 have seen a monster dump of snow across the French and Swiss Alps. Here in Courchevel, we’ve had over 1m at the top of the mountain. We all want to grab the fattest skis we can and head out to play in the powder. But, although it all looks pretty and off-piste skiing is so much fun, this winter’s snowpack is now one of the most dangerous seen in years – even worse than last year. Pete Miles offers some advice for a long, happy, off-piste skiing career…
Off-Piste Skiing Safety
If you do decide to ski off-piste, you should know what you are doing and have some training. Or ski with someone who does like a professional guide or fully qualified instructor (not just a mate with all the gear and no idea…). However, even this is still no guarantee, and it should be understood that it is never a completely risk-free pursuit.
This year 49 people have already been killed by avalanches in the Alps, and 8 people died in 4 separate avalanches in 1 day in Switzerland on Saturday, 31st January. This is despite many of them being experienced, off-piste skiers. So how do you ensure it is your dream powder day, not your last powder day?
Go with someone who knows what they’re doing
If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t venture off-piste without someone who really does. Ensure you are all carrying the right equipment, and have at least some basic idea how to use it. The risk can only be reduced to an acceptable level by a skilled and experienced person making good decisions. So…
Take an avalanche course
The basics should cover:
- Warning signs (red flags)
- Safe terrain selection and travel practices
- Weather and snowpack evaluation
- How to interpret the avalanche bulletin
- Avalanche rescue skills using transceiver, probe, and shovel
- Understand the role that the “human factor” (human error) plays in avalanche accidents
Here at New Generation, we offer off-piste sessions for people on holiday to help you stay safe.
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