Lots Of Snow / Avalanche Safety

There’s been a lot of snow recently around the Alps at the moment. A lot! According to this article from SCUK, this is the best season start that Europe has seen in a long time. And it continues, check out this extract courtesy of WhiteLines’ Friday Fix:

Here’s our latest dump alert from Anne-Marie Sainsbury in Morzine: “It started early on Wednesday and didn’t stop until late at night. I went up yesterday, visabilty was pretty sketchy but lovely floaty fluffy pow everywhere, even on the piste! It cleared up today but I didn’t get to go up cos I had to work, from what people have said it is still pretty awesome up there, still loads of untracked sections, plus the park and the stash are looking good. I am struggling to get in my front door as there’s knee deep snow in front of it – so if it’s that deep in town, you can imagine what it’s like up the mountain!”

Awesome.

So the season’s kicking off with a great base, and if it continues, we’ll hopefully be shredding some pow in January. Finding good powder might not be the easiest thing mind, as I don’t really know the terrain too well. It’s one thing to get first lift up, but if you’re heading in the wrong direction once you’re up there you’re gonna miss out. But that’s another matter – perhaps I’ll start asking around – see if anyone is willing to give up their favourite spots. Unlikely.

Hitting up the off-piste often makes me think about avalanche safety; the things that I know and the things that I don’t. Last season was a little strange. I bought my own beacon, practiced with it, read up on some avalanche theory, and then when I got to Fernie I never went out of bounds once.

You see, there was so much good terrain, all in-bounds, and all cleared by the ski-patrol, that there was no need to venture farther afield. I used the beeper on the cat day, but apart from that, I don’t remember if I used it while in-bounds.

In Canada, well, Fernie at least, as that’s the only Canadian resort I’ve been to, the situation seemed fairly black and white. They open things up if it’s safe. So if it’s open, you can shred it. The ropes are all clearly laid out, and they patrol them, really well. You don’t go into areas that are restricted. The result of this, I found, was that even though there was a lot of snow, I felt safe whilst in-bounds.

Europe is different; it’s much more grey. More of the decision making is left up to the individual…

With this in mind I’ve been thinking about brushing up with my beeper. I remember the last time I practiced, on the beach, I was thinking about a way to show the pattern of flux lines transmitted from a beacon. I’d like to try that. I’d also like to have a few more attempts at multiple burial situations – but getting a few beacons together isn’t easy.

I’ve never done an avalanche training course, which is something I’d like to do. I’ve never actually seen the resulting debris from an avalanche, after it’s stopped. I’d like to see first hand how hard the snow settles, and have a go at using a probe and shovel.

Has anyone been on one of these courses? What kind of practical training is given? From what I’ve read about them – they seem to be very good…

2 Comments

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    VancityAllie

    Funny you should ask, Gavin 😉I just took my AST-1 Avalanche training on the weekend.I wrote up about it here: http://www.vancityallie.com/2008/12/22/ast-1-avalanche-training-course/And you can watch the video I took from the course here: http://vimeo.com/2607418Let me know what you think!Personally I found it to be a very valuable experience. Now I think I’m going to feel more comfortable going out of bounds. Also, I found the transceiver testing really useful… we did group rescues and multiple burials etc. It was both fun, sobering, and helpful.It’s not too much money, and it’s a good way to get out on the weekend, learn a lot, meet some new friends, go exploring in the backcountry and get some powder lines 😀

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Hey Allie, nice work with getting that course done – it looked fun and useful! Plus some fresh lines. What type of beacons did you use? Did they give you guidance on how to dig someone out? It sounds like a dumb question – but, “where to start digging”?

Leave a Reply