Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Some days on the mountain you just have to shake your head, and yesterday was one of those days...

Les Arcs, risk level High (4), obvious signs of slab releases during avalanche control work and what happens?
A powder frenzy is what happens...

We headed towards the Grand Col chair for a lap or two of the unpisted pistes to warm up. On the way up the chair the slopes to the looker's right of the pistes on the steep shoulder dropping towards Combe de la Commune had 3 obvious slab releases. Half-jokingly I said to my group "I wonder how long it will be until the first tracks go in?", sure enough as we went back up the chair tracks were already appearing, and as always people start nibbling further across and further out...
We put skins on for a short climb up to a minor summit with a safe shoulder line to ski, with a grandstand view of the Grand Col slopes. One minute later, as skiers went ever further right, a skier triggered a slab and was taken for a good 70/80 metre ride, fortunately ending up on the surface, though from a distance appearing to limp and possibly minus a ski:

I called the incident in to the pisteurs just to make them aware, hung up the phone, and not 5 minutes after the first incident a second slab was triggered further over again, by an instructor (clad all in red...) leading his group:

Again, fortunately, nobody was buried.

3 minutes later, as the instructor was walking his group out, a 3rd slab was triggered inbetween the first two. Again the skier was lucky and managed to stay near the side of the slide, but the slab stepped down to a lower layer, and travelled further than the other two, stopping not far above the group from incident 2!:

And in the meantime more skiers appeared over the horizon...

So to paraphrase an acquaintance who knows a thing or two about avalanches - 'It's not f*ckin' rocket science!' (ideally said in an East End accent) - High avalanche risk, steep slopes, obvious recent avalanche activity on similar aspect, angle and elevation - what more information do you need?

In other news there has been great skiing to be had staying on safer (note safER not safe) sub-30ยบ slopes and in tight tree lines:

Some pictures of this week's Off Piste Performance group:

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