This is our all important quick reference framework for reducing the chance of an accident. Also check below for our updated tips of the week.
18/1/18: The big topic this week is the weather. Any instability in snowpack this week will mainly be related to the continuing snow storms. We’ll be closely following this, and doing regular Facebook updates about snow stability. See www.facebook.com/HenrysAvalancheTalk
11/1/18: Just because the avalanche danger rating is 3, that doesn’t mean that it is safe everywhere. There are pockets of instability here and there. Check out our updates and learn what the avalanche danger rating definitions mean on henrysavalanchetalk.com/hat-advice/danger-rating.
4/1/18: Keep checking regular weather and avalanche risk updates for your ski area, and follow the advice of local authorities i.e. road closures, security around AND in buildings so you don’t end up with a load of snow on your bed or worse! Excellent local information sources are your local radio station, and the piste patrol services.
28/12/17: The best way to stay safe off-piste over the next few days is to track how much fresh snow falls, and keep an eye on the avalanche danger ratings. Once the danger rating goes to 3 and above, adjust your skiing accordingly. In particular stick to slopes of 30° or less, unless you really know what you’re doing, and remember about the increased danger on those high N facing slopes, where the snowpack is still unconsolidated.
21/12/17: Keep it safe and keep applying risk assessment and reduction methods. You can greatly reduce the chances of having an accident (and have more fun) off-piste with our simple downloadable Off-Piste checklist.
14/12/17:Meteo France are now producing their daily avalanche bulletins. Check them out before you go off-piste on www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches.
Previous tips of the week 2016/17
See our basic framework of risk assessment and reduction methods in our previous blog: www.henrysavalanchetalk.com/off-piste-quick-reference. Even if you don’t apply all the methods perfectly, you’re going to be way safer than if you don’t apply them at all!
A Simple Framework for Reducing the Chance of an Accident
Research has shown that checklists work to reduce errors that lead to accidents in many risk professions and endeavours. Once you have some training (for example on subjects outlined in our ‘Essentials’ Talk), a checklist or framework that you can refer to can help to reduce avalanche accidents in off-piste skiing. Many accidents can be avoided if you use a framework that helps you to consistently pay attention to simple observable clues and information from the environment, as well as, clues from people around you. The same is true in risk professions such as surgery and the military.
To increase your safety, you don’t need to be perfect, just follow this off piste checklist and quick reference on a regular basis – review it the night before, in the morning before you head out and several times during the day. It will help you make decisions based on facts and things you can see rather than on distractions like ‘powder fever’ for example.
So Henry has made this ‘Off-Piste-checklist-Quick-Reference‘ available not only as a quick review of the ‘Essentials’, but also as a simple way for you and your friends to apply what you have learned, have fun and be safe! You can greatly reduce the chances of having an accident (and have more fun) off-piste with this simple downloadable ‘Off-Piste checklist-Quick-Reference‘ A5 card.
Learn how to get your timings right when skiing spring snow. See this blog post henrysavalanchetalk.com/ski-smooth-tips-spring-skiing-off-piste. Get it right, and you’ll find some lovely skiing conditions. You can even apply this to on-piste skiing!
Get out there whatever the weather looks like first thing in the morning. There are bound to be some clear spells that you won’t want to miss! From our experience, there’s always lots of room on safe slopes when a sudden clearing appears… and if no clear spell happens… well, you can always go back down or ski in safe areas of the trees.
Watch out for steep N’ish facing slopes (NE through N to NW). These will be particularly unstable for the next few days.
Watch out on steep N facing slopes. This is where the best snow is to be found, but also where the most instability will be if we get much fresh on top of that weak layer of “sugar snow”.
If you intend to ski a steep pitch, ask yourself: “If this slope should avalanche, what will happen to us?”
Watch out for terrain traps (troughs, cliffs, holes, trees, lake….). Holes and gullies or anywhere the snow could pile up; cliffs that you could fall off; lakes that you could end up in. These hazards mean that the consequences of an avalanche will be much more severe.
See report on Tignes avalanche accident
Look out for slopes where there has been recent avalanche activity, and avoid similar slopes of a similar direction.
Play close attention to the official avalanche bulletins. See here to find the bulletin in your area http://www.avalanches.org/eaws/en/main.php
As the avalanche danger diminishes we tend to get more complacent. So remember to apply our Off-Piste Checklist. This will reduce your chances of having an accident (and help you to have more fun): www.henrysavalanchetalk.com/off-piste-quick-reference. Avalanche risk 2 means moderate with specific risks in specific places. Read the bulletin to see where those risks exist
Download the Meteo Ski app to your phone. It will give you fast access to the Meteo France weather forecast for all French resorts and even more importantly, you will get immediate, easy access to the avalanche bulletins without having to fight with the Meteo France website. The app is refreshingly lacking in adverts and seems to be focused on what the off piste skier needs.
Check your insurance covers you for off piste with or without a guide and without undue restrictions. You can read more about how to be sure you are covered click here