BASIC OFF-PISTE SKI KNOWLEDGE
Off-piste skiing requires special attention to avalanche safety. Any ski region outside of groomed slopes is referred to as off-piste terrain, and it frequently consists of steep, rocky, and snowy areas that should be tackled with extreme caution.
Avalanche forecast research is one of the most crucial steps to do before entering off-piste terrain. The forecast will include details on the present snowpack, the possibility of avalanches, and the mountainous regions that are most vulnerable.
When skiing off-piste, having the appropriate gear is equally crucial. In order to undertake an avalanche rescue, you will need a probe, a shovel, and a transceiver. Using a transceiver, rescuers can find a trapped skier by sending out a radio signal. The skier is located by digging through the snow with a shovel and probe. A backpack containing extra supplies like a first aid kit, extra food and water, and a map of the area is also advised.
Knowing how to see the indications of unstable snow is a crucial component of avalanche safety. Recent avalanches, crumbling or cracking snow, and regions, where the snowpack is obviously unstable, are some examples of these indicators. It’s also critical to be mindful of the terrain and to steer clear of slopes that could slide, such as those that are steep, rocky or treeless areas.
It is also important to have a plan in the event of an avalanche. This includes knowing how to use your equipment, how to conduct a rescue, and what to do if you are caught in an avalanche. It is also important to have a designated meeting spot with your skiing partners in case of separation.
Skiing off-piste can be a thrilling and exciting experience, but it is important to approach it with caution and to be prepared for the potential dangers. By checking the forecast, having the proper equipment, understanding the signs of unstable snow, and having a plan in place, skiers can help ensure their safety while enjoying the beauty of off-piste terrain.
It is also important to have proper training on how to use the equipment and an understanding of the terrain, snowpack and weather, taking an Avalanche safety course is also highly recommended for any skiers or snowboarders who plan to venture into the backcountry.
THE AVALANCHE DANGER LEVELS
The European Avalanche Danger Scale is a five-level system that tells you how much risk of avalanches being triggered there is.
It’s important to note that the levels don’t just go up by one each time. For example, a level 3 avalanche (which is “Considerable”) is not just a little bit more dangerous than a level 2 avalanche (which is “Moderate”), but possibly twice as hazardous, And you should never add the levels together.
The level of avalanche danger is determined by changes and combinations of input variables. Three factors are considered: snowpack stability, its distribution, and avalanche size. For example, at level 1 (Low danger), only small avalanches may occur in isolated areas with high additional load, while at level 4 (High danger), many large avalanches are likely to occur with low additional loads or even spontaneously. The scale has five levels, but in reality, the danger can vary continuously and disproportionately.
TYPE OF AVALANCHES
Wind slabs are a type of avalanche that can be easily triggered by a single backcountry skier. The size of these slabs depends on both the wind and the amount of fresh or loosely bonded snow. When only small amounts of snow are present, wind slabs tend to be small and cause less severe avalanches. However, even small slabs can be dangerous in areas where falling or slipping could have fatal consequences. Forecasters usually consider these conditions to be at a danger level of 2, or moderate. With proper training, it is usually easy to assess wind-drifted snow accumulations when visibility is good. To stay safe, it’s best to avoid wind slabs whenever possible.
Deep Weak Layers
It is challenging to start a fracture in deeply buried persistent weak layers, such as buried surface hoar or basal facets generated by temperature variations. These layers are particularly likely to be activated at transitions from shallow to deep snow or in locations where the snow is relatively shallow. Even while it is uncommon for a single skier to cause a fracture in these layers, when it does, the avalanches that follow are frequently huge and deadly. Even though triggering places are uncommon and difficult to find, avalanche forecasters frequently assess these circumstances as having a hazard level of 3, or severe.
Even with a skilled eye and sophisticated skills. More avalanche fatalities result from the chronic weak layer problem than from any other common avalanche issue.
Wet and Glide Snow Avalanches
Wet-snow avalanches are rarely triggered by skiers and glide-snow avalanches are almost impossible to trigger by skiers, making natural causes the main trigger for these types of avalanches, even at lower danger levels. The lower end of the avalanche danger scale mainly relates to the maximum possible spontaneous activity for wet-snow and glide-snow avalanches, as large spontaneous avalanches can occur with a 2-moderate danger level. For dry-snow avalanches, natural triggers are typically associated with a 3-considerable danger level, as they can also be triggered by individuals.