Avalanche risk grows as snow storm arrives

28th January 2015, by Abi Butcher

Ski guide Kurt Ladner off-piste in Klosters yesterday

Ski guide Kurt Ladner off-piste in Klosters yesterday

Skiers and snowboarders in the Alps are being warned to take even more care over the next days as the forecast snow starts to fall. The anticipated “big storm” in the next few days comes on the back of fairly significant snowfall in the past two days in some areas, with the already dangerous avalanche conditions set to worsen.

More than a metre of new snow is expected to fall across the northern French Alps, and up to 90cm in parts of Switzerland, 50cm in parts of Austria and up to 20cm across Italy. But the new snow will increase the avalanche danger — and over the past two weeks there have been number of fatal accidents in avalanches across Europe.

Last Saturday (24 January), six people died while skiing in the Queyras Massif region 125km north of Nice in France. The four men and two women were skiing off-piste near the town of Ceillac — close to the ski resort of Vars — on Saturday when engulfed by an avalanche 900m long and 300m wide. Helicopters were scrambled when they failed to return home on Saturday evening but their bodies were not found until Sunday morning when their avalanche transceivers were traced in a ground search.

Last week the well-known American freeride skier David Rosenbarger, 38, died on the Italian side of Mont Blanc and a 48-year-old French woman died in an avalanche in Valloire, France. Two German skiers died in an avalanche in St Anton, Austria last week, and another remains in hospital.

WTSS web editor Abi Butcher spent the day skiing off-piste yesterday in Klosters, with local guide Kurt Ladner and avalanche equipment — and although the snow is falling heavily in some areas there is still no base to the snow at all.

“The number of people skiing off-piste has exploded,” said Kurt, president of Kloster’s association of private ski guides, Absolute Powder. “The problem is a lot of them are not properly experienced — or don’t carry avalanche equipment. The conditions at the moment are extremely dangerous.”

The avalanche danger level is currently 3 in most places — meaning considerable — the level at which most deaths occur.

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