Travel to Alpine destinations, at the time of this writing, is uncertain to say the least. It seems to be limited to France and Italy if you want to avoid quarantines, lockdowns and direct hints of further immanent restrictions in the very near future. That’s a generalization – we will do our best to provide specific facts when we can.
The snow, is one thing that is certain. It has been falling pretty consistently for almost three days now and it is predicted to continue! It is cold, light AND set to continue for the next ten days or so. This is good news for skiers because until a few days ago, many resorts in the Alps had virtually no snow cover at all. Of course, there are still plenty of rocks around and a lot more snow coverage is needed, particularly below 2000 m. Needless to say, off-piste is very limited at the moment, but these little top-ups of fresh snow will really improve matters. The avalanche danger rating today was around a 2 out of 5 above 2500 m, and will probably go up if the snowfall continues. See what the avalanche danger ratings mean here.
The ski season has now started in some of the higher altitude resorts like the French resorts of Val d’Isère, Tignes and Val Thorens. Their skiable areas are currently very limited, but will soon become a lot more extensive thanks to the fresh snowfall and to the below-freezing temperatures (allowing snow cannons to operate and the piste services to prepare more runs).
Events: In my 2-part Zoom Essentials talk next week I’ll be talking about current off-piste conditions, and going into the fundamental aspects of how to make decisions and reduce risks in the backcountry : Where you go and when, how you go down or up and how well prepared you are for a crisis. These skills are crucial to risk management and helping to make off-piste skiing as safe as driving to the resort itself … IF applied.
Sign up to attend the talk here happening in 2 parts on Tues 7th and Wed 8th at 18.00 UK time, 19.00 Central European time. It’s part of our ORTOVOX & HAT Off-Piste Awareness Tour, which is continuing both virtually and ‘in person’ throughout the rest of the season. Each of the 2 sessions should last about an hour, and of course you’re very welcome to ask questions, etc.
It looks as if will be snowing down to at least 1000 m or so, in smallish amounts (just a couple of centimetres per day in the valley bottoms, and up to 10/15 cm or so at higher altitudes). Temperatures are very low, particularly at night where it’s getting down to -19° C or so at 3000 m. It certainly felt very cold when we were out skiing today, with a punchy northwesterly wind. There were rocks around and some nasty dips and holes, but the quality of snow on the few pistes that were open was excellent. We will be resuming our more detailed weekly off-piste snow report in the next week or so. Even if you can’t get out to ski, we hope you might find it interesting to read about the conditions.
Finally, we realise that the real question on every skier’s mind at the moment is about how the Covid situation will affect your travel plans, whether you’ll be able to ski or not, and what to expect if you do manage to come out to resort. In the next few days, we will be talking with the resort authorities here in Val d’Isère, and will post their latest information on the COVID situation and restrictions.
There’s a long list of evidence that shows how applying simple frameworks, checklists and memory aids reduce risk in ‘high consequence, low feedback’ risk contexts prevalent in: aviation, military, finance, health care, avalanche terrain etc.
See our HAT quick reference ‘Safety is Freedom Framework’ for accident reduction in avalanche terrain. The Framework is aimed at all levels of off-piste and touring: for beginners: a point of departure; for experts: a guide for further learning; for pros: it’s a great framework for client training and quick memory aid.
The Framework is best if accompanied by training such as HAT events and on-snow courses, but it’s also a useful companion for all training as it focuses on the basic key points that all avalanche training courses address – it helps you to keep focused on the essential accident reduction points.