Finally some snow in the Espace Killy and we’ve had some great turns as a result!
During the last snowfalls, the wind has come out of the West’ish’ and blown lots of snow over onto the east’ish’ slopes and that has been where the good skiing is. But as you may have noticed, these areas that have been ‘wind loaded’ are where most of the avalanche activity has taken place too. This wind loading of new snow on top of a weak layer has been one of the reasons for a number of close calls due to avalanches. People have been buried in the Espace Killy in the last few days and others have been buried and killed in the region over the last few days - remember that people who are taken in avalanches set them of themselves (or someone above sets it off).
Before the recent snow falls, there was a very weak layer that made up just about the entire snowpack in most places. The weak layer was fine by itself then, but now that we have new snow on top of it, it is really unstable. You can check out the weak layer yourself if you push your pole into the snow or dig down 10 to 50 cm or so. It is a layer of coarse crystals that make up a sugary cohesionless type of snow (especially on north’ish’ facing slopes) called ‘angular grains’ or ‘depth hoar’ (goblet in French) in the final stages of the crystal’s growth.
Have fun and be safe!
Henry and the HAT Team
This report is written in collaboration with Andreas the pagan Swedish speaker from HAT and off-piste guide at Alpine Experience and HATadventures
See how you can receive these together with free off piste advice and weather reports from Henry’s Avalanche Talk by email every week at http://www.skioffpiste.co.uk
Slides in view from Tommeuse lift Val d’Isere 3rd Jan