The authorities have issued a series of avalanche warnings for the French Northern Alps and Hautes-Alpes department giving the risk of skier triggered avalanches between High (4/5) and Considerable (3/5). There is no full avalanche bulletin in France at the moment. The risk is highest in the pre-Alps (Chartreuse, Bauges etc), traditional backup plans when the conditions are dangerous in the high mountains.
Olivier Cousins of the Briancon mountain rescue warned backcountry enthusiasts to: "Exercise care this weekend wrt to the avalanche risk. We've been out on a rescue today at St Véran, 2 skiers involved, the avalanche was 50x300 meters and 50cm deep, it broke down to ground level. There are not a lot of people ski touring today, and yet still we were called out."
The Isère prefecture has appealed to winter sports enthusiasts to take care and be prudent. "We don't recommend off piste skiing without having the correct equipment and without having consulted with professionals."
Meteo France has cautioned that there is a
"High risk of accidental avalanche triggering in the northern Alps.
The greatest caution is recommended this weekend in the mountains especially in the Northern French Alps.
The risk of triggering a slab avalanche is Considerable (risk 3/5), locally High (4/5) above 1500 m altitude, especially in the Prealps, the Haute-Savoie and Isère massifs. as well as in the North West of the Hautes-Alpes.
These massifs are the most affected by the fresh snowfall and wind, ongoing this Friday and during the night of Friday to Saturday. Overall, the episode will bring 20 to 50 cm of new snow above 1500 meters and winds in various orientations.
Strong high mountain winds will favor the formation of slabs and accumulations on many slopes. Some of these slabs will look powdery and be difficult to spot.
This snow covers the widespread layers of fragile snow present in all of the shaded orientations (east, north and west slopes), making the snowpack very unstable in these slopes. Very large avalanches (very wide breaks and large accumulations) can be triggered at the passage of a single person.
Aggravating factors :
On Sunday a fresh, very active, snow episode will arrive during the day bringing a lot of fresh snow in the mountains, and accompanied by strong winds and a significant thaw. The risks of spontaneous departures and triggering by skiers will again increase from the end of Sunday."