On the 12th of December 2020, 40cm of fresh snow fell over two days in the northern French Alps in the Tarentaise Valley. The snowfall fell on top of a weak fragile layer and nine avalanches were reported the next day. These avalanches caused many injuries and luckily no casualties.
In this blog I am going to share with you three terrain selection mistakes that riders made after a 40cm snowfall and how to avoid them.
MISTAKE 1: SLOPE ANGLE
The riders choose a slope after a heavy snowfall above 30 degrees. Avalanche danger significantly increases with slope angle as you rise above 30-degrees, but beyond 50-degrees (Tremper) or 60-degrees, (Fredston and Fesler) the likelihood of dangerous slab avalanches decreases.
HOW TO AVOID: After a heavy snowfall consider a slope less than degrees angle.
MISTAKE 2: ASPECT OF SLOPE
The majority avalanches on that day happened on northerly aspects. Depending on what direction the slope faces at what time of the year is vital information to how the snowpack bonds. It’s so important to check the forecast, the avalanche bulletin and get local information before making your route decisions. To understand which aspects are more dangerous than others.
HOW TO AVOID: Find out which aspects of the slope in the area that you would like to ride in are more dangerous and avoid them.
MISTAKE 3: SHAPE OF THE SLOPE
The riders choose a slope with a convexity. Convex slopes statistically produce more avalanches and more avalanche accidents than other kinds of slopes, because they are inherently less stable.
HOW TO AVOID: Avoid slopes with a convexity all together.
It’s so important to get the right training and education so you can make better and safer decisions when riding off-piste. If you hire an experienced guide and instructor its such an investment as they can teach you to make the right decisions in avalanche terrain and pass their experience. For more details or if you have any questions please drop me an email to: [email protected] or visit my website www.freefloski.com
TOP TIP: LET IT SETTLE
Don’t hike right after a heavy snowfall storm. Most avalanches occur during or just after a heavy snowfall when added weight and weak bonds between fresh and existing snow make slides more likely. Experts recommend waiting at least 48 hours but local variables can extend that time. Always check the avalanche forecast (go to avalanche.org to find a report for your area).
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