With the avalanche risk hovering between 1 and 2 the principal risks for skiers are from falls, either on crevassed terrain due to weak snowbridges or on icy snow. There is not too much we can do about glaciers, apart from avoiding them. If you are skiing you should remember to never take both skis off at the same time on glaciated terrain, wear a harness and also be equipped with a short rope called a “longe” in French. This should be threaded through your harness and then clipped to your collar or chest strap of your ruck-sack. This is extremely handy to be able to whinch you out of a crevasse, especially where space is very tight.
Icy slopes are another thing. Over the last couple of days there have been three incidents in the French Northern Alps which remind us of the dangers. If you make a mistake in your turn you can pick up speed very quickly on hard snow. Wearing textured materials which provide friction with the snow surface and knowing how to self arrest etc. may help. Throw in a rocks, cliffs and trees and a long painful slide can turn into a drama. Timing is also important. East facing slopes may be getting too soft to ski safely by mid-morning, south facing slopes around midday whereas west facing slopes may still be icy until early afternoon. Throw in cold overnight temperatures and the surface of the snow can be icy early in the day. There is still powder to be found in couloirs, either the remains of the last snowfall or sugar snow transformed by the cold. However with a lot of strong winds over the winter the entrances and ridgelines are frequently icy and don’t be surprised to find ice further down too.
At 10h50 yesterday a British skier, aged 37 fell on the Face du Charvet near the col du Niolet. The man was carried over 2 cliff bands during his fall of 300 meters. Rescue workers including a doctor tried to resuscitate the man for over an hour. His wife and 1 year old baby are in resort. According to Radio Val d’Isere there have been 7 deaths in resort this winter. I’ll just add that none of them were in avalanches.
In the Belledonne a student fell on the north-east side of the pointe de Comberousse after making a couple of turns on icy slopes around 45°. He was carried over a rock band stopping 200 meters lower down. After giving first aid on the scene the man was heliported to Grenoble hospital by the CRS and Civil Security where he is in a critical condition.
Finally early this afternoon a ski tourer was killed after slipping on icy snow and falling over a 30 meter cliff on the Traverse Crochues-Bérard in the Aiguilles Rouges above Flegere. The man was killed instantly by the fall.