Following and complementing our post this past Friday, “An exceptional avalanche situation, … in the Northern French Alps and surrounding areas – worth noting, following and learning from. “
The following video in Tignes, France, is of a massive avalanche set off during avalanche control procedures (PIDA) this morning in the ‘Col de la Leisse’ facing area of the Grande Motte sector – taken by the Service des Pistes de Tignes.
It is an especially dangerous, but also educational, time throughout the Alps. The overall avalanche situation is a ‘text book’ example of snowpack instability especially in the Northern French Alps due to a persistent weak layer(s) with new snow on top. This is a great opportunity to learn about the phenomena, as well as avalanche accident reduction points.
It’s also a time to apply serious risk reduction measures, such as avoiding all slopes of 30° or more – even if there are lots of tracks around you on steep slopes and it looks fine. One of the most important lessons of avalanche safety is that nothing happens most of the time even when it is very unstable… but then sometimes it does.
Fred Bonnevie, Director of the Service des Pistes in Tignes, has just sent me the following photo which he took today. He’s extremely shocked and concerned about the amount of skiers out on steep slopes, bearing no regard to the extremely unstable avalanche situation that we’re currently in. The avalanche activity in the photo was triggered by skiers and boarders touring up and skiing down. Terrain traps (in this case holes and dips) are clearly visible. Seeing activity like this, Bonnevie said he was, and is, dreading more deaths occurring….. The next 2 days look like being similar ‘bluebird’ days with high quality light powder snow, and it’s a very worrying situation indeed.
The pisteurs’ video and the two tragic deaths (on following links) in the Tarentaise / Haute Tarentaise area of Savoie in the last 5 days attest to the deceptive nature of the avalanche phenomenon: ledauphine.com/societe/2021/01/14/courchevel-un-skieur-italien-decede-dans-une-avalanche & ledauphine.com/faits-divers-justice/2021/01/16/tignes-avalanche-mortelle-dans-le-massif-de-l-aiguille-percee
There have been similar results from avalanche control triggered by explosives in many areas of the Alps today, as part of avalanche control efforts by local authorities from helicopters.
Stay safe people!
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.