As mentioned before, the snowpack in some regions in the Alps is very unstable. The bad base in combination with lots of freshies and wind resulted in (temporary) HIGH avalanche danger. Tuesday was the first bluebird day in the French and Swiss Alps after a period of intense snowfall. Typically a day when statistically more people casue avalanches. And Tuesday January the 5th was such a day.
In Val d'Isère, part of the l'Espace Killy, two avalanches were triggered by skiers/snowboarders yesterday morning. The first avalanche was triggered around 10:30. A group of three French people who work in the area the whole season left the marked slopes at the Bellevarde. They triggered an avalanche. Because everybody was wearing an avalanche beacon they could be located and rescued pretty fast. One of them has been taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
Less than an hour later, a group of four Spaniards decided to ride on a closed slope. They triggered an avalanche. No one in the group was wearing an avalanche beacon, which made it difficult for emergency services to locate the,. Fortunately for three of them, mountain rescue arrived at the scene fast and with 15 people and 2 avalanche dogs they were located and rescued. Help came too late for the fourth victim. More information.
At the same time a Czech season worker died in an avalanche in Saint-Colomban-des-Villards, part of the Les Sybelles ski area. On the way from La Toussiere to Saint-Colomban-des-Villards he left the marked slopes with a colleague and caused a massive avalanche with a length of 700 meters. The victim was wearing an avalanche beacon, but help came too late. According to data avalanche the man was wearing an avalanche airbag, but that didn't save his life. More information.
In Siviez, part of Les 4 Vallées, a man of 52 came was caught an avalanche. He was part of a group that left the marked slopes arond the Col des Gentianes. The avalanche was triggered just below a ridge and the man was partly covered, but fortunately he could be rescued pretty soon. The man was taken to the hospital in Sion. More information
The situation in the Alps is still tense. Although the avalanche danger has dropped to three (on a scale of five), that's still a significant hazard. A single skier or snowboarder can already cause an avalanche on a slope steeper than 35 degrees. Yesterday's accidents showed that you really need at least an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe and know how to use it. In addition, closed slopes are closed for a reason and an avalanche airbag is not always effective.
If you want to ride off-piste the next couple of days, do that on slopes that are less dangerous. You'll need the right knowledge to make that decision. If you don't have the right knowledge, hire a mountain guide!
Thirteen. That's the number of fatalities due to avalanches in the Alps this season. Eleven of which were climbers, the other two were skiers. Twelve of the accidents happened in France, one in Switzerland.