/ High Risk Touring & Off-Piste Snow Conditions is Switzerland

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ChrisJD on 06 Jan 2014


"an article in Swiss newspaper Le Matin warns that the avalanche situation is so bad that even pros don't want to go off piste and it doesn't seem like things are going to improve any time soon."

http://pistehors.com/watch-out-say-swiss-mountain-guides-23147387.htm

http://www.lematin.ch/faits-divers/victimes-mase-suivaient-cours-avalanches/story/22113009
Guy - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD: French Alps too. I shall be very cautious in Feb.

NottsRich on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

Not just off-piste. Take a look at the 7th picture from Courmayeur on Sunday.

http://chamconditions.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/courmayeur-powder.html
SiWood - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

Yes 12 fatalities so far this season see slf stats

http://www.slf.ch/praevention/lawinenunfaelle/lawinenunfaelle/unfaelle_aktuell/index_EN

My new skis will be staying on piste until things settle down!
graham F - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

It's true that conditions on steep shady slopes are very unstable due to the thin snowpack but there's plenty of good skiing off piste on less steep ground - to say "don't go off piste" isn't very helpful, but finding good, safe skiing needs careful route choice and judgement. I've just spent 3 days guiding off-piste in Grimentz in great snow and will be working there the rest of this week.
NottsRich on 23 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

Does anyone know much about the current touring conditions in the French alps, or other good sources of information? My French is poor and I'm not sure where to start looking for information. Thanks.
NottsRich on 23 Jan 2014
In reply to NottsRich:

This is Switzerland, but a French equivalent would be appreciated.

http://www.slf.ch/lawinenbulletin/lawinengefahr/index_EN
Doug on 23 Jan 2014
In reply to NottsRich:

The 'official' website is http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/ but its only in French - maybe Google translate (or similar)would give you an idea of what they are predicting?
Dave Wynne-Jones on 27 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

Hi Folks,

I've just got back from an avalanche training course in Leysin & have posted on the ESC website where there has been a lot of discussion of this topic. See http://www.eagleskiclub.org.uk/node/2575

Regards,
D.
Dave Kerr - on 27 Jan 2014
In reply to NottsRich:

> Not just off-piste. Take a look at the 7th picture from Courmayeur on Sunday.


FYI that picture is from 2007.

Still scares the sh!t out of me but not an idicator of current risk.
CurlyStevo - on 27 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

I saw a lot of people in the aosta area skiing off piste on hard new slab that was cracking in to medium slabbed chunks as they went down.
climbersion on 27 Jan 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

As mentioned by Graham F the situation is beginning to settle down, we've had a lot of snowfall recently and this means that the weak layers from early winter are far more deeply buried in the snow pack and much less prone to triggering. Careful route choice and sensible analysis of your chosen slope/route is of course still/always necessary, however I've been enjoying some fantastic off-piste recently so I wouldn't let the scaremongering put you off!!
NottsRich on 25 Feb 2014
Are there any recent updates on snowpack stability? Especially for around Chamonix.
blurty - on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to NottsRich:
I was there two weeks ago. For areas skied from Grand Montets, which are well tracked the received wisdom is they are safe (I'm not talking way-back country)

For more remote skiing it's more difficult, a guide I spoke to said that he'd watched how the conditions had developed, and he already had in mind slopes/ aspects that he wouldn't use this wintern because of the problems which you allude to.

It's all about local knowledge he seemed to suggest.

Not what you want to hear I'm sure.
Post edited at 10:35
Erstwhile on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to ChrisJD:

Dolomites are still a bit iffy but improving towards normality now.

There is likely to be another dump of snow on the Western alps this coming weekend.
xoran - on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to NottsRich:

I'm just over the border in Switzerland but we've had a couple of days with the risk level down to two now. The weak layers are slowly improving although we've had warm weather so there's no snow down low (below 1200m here).
Definitely worth checking more locally though!
Mr Lopez - on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to xoran:

Just over the border as well, at the Petit Combin across the valley from the Aig Argentiere, a BASE jumper was avalanched shortly after crashing on the Western slopes on Sunday. I guess it wasn't his lucky day...
AdrianC - on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to NottsRich:
I've been touring a bit over the last 2 / 3 weeks around Cham, Morillon / Sixt (today) & also around Bonneval sur Arc which is further south (near Val d'Isere but much nicer!)

The early season depth hoar layer is still there and looks like it is producing natural avalanches (size 2 - 3 that I've seen) running to ground on sunny aspects at lower elevations during the warmer parts of the day. There are numerous glide-cracks, roller-balls and the other usual clues as to where this is likely to happen and with good timing they're avoidable.

In colder areas (north facing, higher) & where the snowpack is deeper this seems to be less of an issue now than it was in January but if & when things warm up I'd expect some big, full depth avalanches.

Other than that all I've seen from skier triggering (i.e not explosives, seracs etc.) has been size 1 windslab higher up and wet slides lower down on sunny aspects - just new snow on the old. Obviously those could be bigger depending on how much new snow when you're here. Incidentally there's a widespread, noticeable brown layer from a storm which included Saharan sand about 10 days ago.

With the clear weather we've had over the last week there's currently plenty of excellent skiing on shady aspects.
Post edited at 22:25
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NottsRich on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to AdrianC:

Thanks all, much appreciated information. Interesting that you think high up shady aspects are relatively safer now. A few months back weren't they the non-consolidated areas to particularly avoid?

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