Top ten avalanche safety tips for off-piste skiers

Aguilles Rouges, Chamonix, France.

Top ten avalanche safety tips for off-piste skiers

With such a bumper year for snow, many folk will be heading out skiing this Easter. Some will be heading off-piste where you have to look after your own safety.

My two previous blogs focused more on mountaineers, but skiing is different for two main reasons. On skis, you travel around the mountain so much quicker, changing altitude, angle and aspect of slope in seconds, so you must continually re-assess the risks and make decisions. Also, choosing a descent is committing – walking back up hill is hard work!

I highlighted in my last two blogs many core elements of avalanche awareness. If you are unfamiliar with the following ideas, it might be worth taking an avalanche course or skiing with a qualified mountain guide.

Understand conditions

  • Read the avalanche forecast
  • Gather info on local conditions/black spots
  • Understand the effects of wind.

Understand terrain

  • Avoid convexities
  • Recognise terrain traps
  • Understand how slope angle relates to avalanche risk.

Many incidents in the mountains are a result of human behavior.

Here are a further top 10 tips for giving you and your team the best chance of staying safe next time out.

  1. Ski with a group and let others know where you plan to ski.
  2. Remain adaptable and flexible, with humility. Conditions change fast.
  3. Wear a transceiver and know how to use it. Practice searching often.
  4. Carry a probe and a shovel.
  5. Ski in short pitches so that you do not lose sight of each other.
  6. Ski pitches one at a time if concerned about a slope.
  7. If concerned about the safety of a slope, some of the team can remain at vantage points to view the skier in descent.
  8. Be aware of other people skiing in above you and the effect on the slope.
  9. Carry skins – always nice to know you can climb back up a bit if necessary.
  10. Remember, just because a slope has ski tracks, doesn’t mean it’s ok.

Good safe skiing!

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