Postcard from Val – Feb 14

View from top of Borsat
View from top of Borsat
View from top of Borsat
View from top of Borsat

No doubt many of you heard about the tragic avalanche in Tignes yesterday that took the lives of 3 members of a family and a Tignes ski instructor. We all send our thoughts and condolences to their loved ones. It shows that skiing off-piste, while immensely enjoyable, carries risks. The group had snowboarded that same slope that avalanched earlier and had such a good time they wanted to do it again. The 2nd time, sadly, proved fatal.
My recommendation for skiing powder off-piste – the ‘Ski Tip’ for this post – is to ski slopes less than 30 degrees as those slopes have the least chance of avalanching. When the announced avalanche risk is low (1 or 2) then one can feel safer on steeper slopes, though even then one should ski with lots of caution and ski down the slope one person at a time. I love skiing off-piste in fresh powder or on ‘spring snow’ as it provides great pleasure and I encourage others to do so as I would like them to also experience that joy. But I want everyone to do so as safely as possible. So I encourage everyone to become ‘mountain aware’. This means learning as much as you can about snow conditions, snow packs, depth hoar (which are the very dangerous layers under the snow) and understanding the differences of ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’ slopes. It is worth attending one of Henry Schniewind’s off-piste awareness lectures (Henry’s Avalanche Talks) which are very informative. My ebook ‘Powder and Off-Piste Skiing’ devotes a chapter to ‘mountain & avalanche awareness’, using video and illustrations to help you understand how to read the mountains and snow conditions, explaining when slopes are dangerous and how depth hoar is formed. On the same day as the avalanche I was skiing wonderful conditions ‘on piste’ on and around the Borsat run (photo below). With such wonderful snow on the runs I didn’t feel the need to ski off-piste. And, as I mentioned in my previous post, if you ski during normal lunch time hours, the slopes are not busy. The forecast for the rest of this week is warm and sunny!

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