The mountain world has seen numerous tragic accidents these last few weeks. For amateurs, as well as professionals, avalanches are becoming more and more deadly.
To be sure you have a safe day out you must be informed and analyse the situation. The first thing is to be aware of weather conditions, learn about the snow conditions and in particular assess the risk of avalanche. For this, there are indicators. Météo France has set up a European reference scale of 5 levels.
Level 1: Low Risk
« The overall stability of the snowpack is good»
Level 2: Low risk
«The overall stability is satisfactory but localized instability affects some slopes, where exposure and altitude are the most notable factors»
Level 3: Notable Risk
« The instability worsens and extends to many slopes »
Level 4: High risk
«Instability affects most of the slopes»
Level 5: Very high risk
« The snowpack is very unstable and widespread: lots of snowfall, cold and windy, rapid rewarming accompanied by rain affecting some transformed snowpack. »
(source : météofrance)
These indicators are available on MétéoFrance website and also in ski resorts. A system of ” avalanche risk ” flags is also seen in some ski resorts.
After observing the conditions, make sure to have the right equipment to be able to intervene in case of an event. The basic equipment against avalanches is simple:
A transceiver (or DVA) tag that allows you to be tracked under the snow.
Probe : to pinpoint the body
Shovel : to clear the snow quickly and evacuate the victim.
Warning: This equipment does not avoid the risk of being caught in an avalanche. This is simply equipment used to come to the aid of victims.
New equipment have appeared on the market, for example avalung that allows a victim to breathe even under a thick layer of snow.
The French professional freerider Julien Lopez managed to get out of a violent avalanche thanks to his ABS bag.
I’ll let you discover the video for yourself:
Finally, experience and instinct are two key factors to get out of difficult situations. A good knowledge of the snow can help you avoid areas at risk.
But the golden rule is to be vigilant.
This go pro video shows a rider putting his glove on and momentarily not seeing the avalanche that is being formed a few meters away from him:
The mountains that we marvel can also put us in danger.