How to Survive an Avalanche
An avalanche that left three skiers dead in the French ski resort of Les Deux Alpes on Wednesday has served as a tragic reminder of the risks of off-piste skiing and the need to be prepared when disaster strikes.
While avalanches may be difficult to predict and can happen quickly, experts have revealed their top tips for skiers to improve their chances of avoiding or surviving one.
They include everything from carrying essential gear, including a locator beacon, at all times and ‘swimming’ or rolling while you’re carried down the mountain.
What is the avalanche danger rating?
The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said skiers should regularly check avalanche danger ratings and weather conditions online or with their resort before they head out and while they are on the mountain.
There are some smartphone apps that display updated information.
An Abta spokesperson said: ‘Tens of thousands of British holidaymakers will be heading to the slopes in the next few months and yesterday’s tragic incident highlights the need to be aware of avalanche safety.
‘Abta urges skiers and snowboarders to ensure that it is consulted regularly as it can change from day to day.
‘Heavy snowfalls can create an unstable snow base and an environment for an avalanche. Following recent snowfalls, many European resorts are now displaying avalanche warnings.’
Avoid off-piste skiing or closed runs
Wednesday’s avalanche hit a piste at Les Deux Alpes resort which has been closed to the public all season, killing two French students who were part of a school group from Lyon, and a Ukrainian man.
Abta’s spokesperson said: ‘Skiers should be aware of the dangers of leaving the controlled area of the mountain and those who plan to go off-piste should exercise extreme caution using an experienced guide.’
What to watch out for
When they’re on the mountain, skiers should try to spot signs of previous avalanche activity and cracking or collapsing.
They should also listen for hollow noises when they are moving across the surface.
That’s a sign that the snow pack may be fracturing and is not solid enough to support a skier, said former SAS member and TV presenter Phil Campion in an interview with Adventure Travel Magazine.
Significant snowfall, rain or rising temperatures can all make the snow pack unstable, said the American Avalanche Association.