A relatively thin snow cover, cold nights, little fresh snow, sometimes stormy winds and a low sun. These are the ingredients for an unstable snow cover and with the snowfall and wind to come yet we continue to warn you the coming weeks. Due to the lack of fresh snow, the snow cover is assumed to be safe in many cases. But snow is not something static. The snow is constantly changing and what a week ago was fairly stable now suddenly becomes dangerous. In recent days, there were many avalanches coming down and some of them had severe consequences.
Fatality in Pizol
A 30-year-old Swiss skier tour was seized by a slab avalanche on Saturday the 2nd of December. During a traverse the man was thrown of a cliff by a slab avalanche and ended up 150 meters below. Because he was alone it took a long time before the rescue services were informed of the missing man and it took until Sunday until the man could be salvaged death. This already is the second victim in Switzerland which is pushed by a slab avalanche of a cliff this season.
Wounded in critical condition in Austria
A tour skier was caught in an avalanche and completely buried in the Austrian Sellrain on Monday. The man was wearing an avalanche transceiver and could be found quickly by two other touring skiers. The man was pushed into a gully by the avalanche, and after that all the snow ended up on top of him. Such a gully, which is called a terrain trap by the experts, also makes it more difficult to save a person caught because they usually lie much deeper. In this case, that was true. The 44 year-old man was found to be 1.7 meters deep and was salvaged in critical condition. The rescue team flew the 44-year-old man immediately by helicopter to the hospital. The man is still in critical condition.
Four people in avalanche in the Oetztal
A group of touring skiers and snowshoe walkers was caught by a slab avalanche of 80 meters wide on Sunday. Although four people were caught, they were not completely buried. One of them was injured and had to be flown to the hospital by helicopter. The situation is stable. The other three could free themselves.
Avalanches in Italy
Several avalanches came down in Italy last weekend. The Föhn storm caused a lot of drift snow, creating critical conditions. A total of four persons got caught in an avalanche. Everyone survived, and will completely recover.
Avalanches in France
An increasing number of avalanches are reported from France the last days. Again, fortunately no fatalities, but it clearly shows that with not that much snow avalanches may occur.
Watch out: very unstable snow cover!
In short: if you go to the Alps the next couple of days, be very alert. It didn't snow for a long time in many places.. From various places we get reports from the Alps that the snow cover on slopes particularly in the shade has little cohesion. In addition, many ridges are blown bare and in many places a so-called 'harschdeckel' has been observed. Factors that in might be a weak of sliding layer for avalanches in the near future. Check your local daily avalanche bulletin, make sure you have the right gear with you and that you have the right knowledge. No knowledge? Are you not sure? Say no to off-piste and wait for conditions to improve. The season is still long.