Sad news from the Alps. A ski tourer died in an avalanche in the area at the border of Austria and Switzerland. Another ski tourer fell into a crevasse in the French Alps and was fatally injured. Our thoughts go out to the families and friends of the victims. Analyzes by the avalanche services in Tyrol show weak layers in sunny terrain. Careful planning, the right gear and knowledge and good guiding are essential to ride as safe as possible!
A 57-year-old ski tourer was reported missing and was found dead by mountain rescue on Wednesday only dead of rescue workers. Various sources (eg here) assume that the man already was hit by an avalanche during the weekend and was traveling alone. Presumably he chose the ascent the route from Galtür (Austria) over the Lareintal, then via the Ritzenjoch towards the Heidelberger Hütte and ski down to the Unterengadin (Switzerland). The avalanche was triggered at about 2400 m. The man was found at a depth of about one meter after the avalanche debris was detected from the helicopter. (Source)
The run from the Ritzenjoch to the Heidelberger Hütte hits steep terrain (30 degrees or higher) in some places. If you compare the analyses of the police with our gradient map, the area of where the avalanche was triggered can be recognized. There's a steep part (yellow/red) just above the contour line of 2300 meters below the arrow that marks the departure.
When you take a close look at the aspect of the slope, you will realize that it is precisely in this steep area where the slope is partially oriented south or southeast. Check out the observations of the avalanche services in Tyrol about the sunny slopes. It is possible that the slab under the Ritzenjoch could have been released due to these factors. There's more research currently done.
A 25-year-old man from Germany crashed 50 meters into a crevasse and died while skiing on the Grande Motte Glacier in Tignes In the French Savoie. A mountain guide saw the man (who was carrying safety gear) disappear. Since the man didn't have a rope or tools to attach a rope to and was riding alone, help came too late. Source
There were also avalanches in the Rendl area in St. Anton am Arlberg. The skiers who were buried coudl luckily be saved. In one case, the hand of a 64-year-old man was still sticking out of the snow (burial depth about 1m), another group was covered to the chest. The injured men were transported to the hospital by helicopter. (Source)
The avalanches in the Arlberg region were analyzed in detail In the blog of the Tyrolean Avalanche Service. The experts point out (according to snow profile analyzes) that the formation of loose crystals between melting crusts has led to the formation of a weak layer. Affected is "W- and E-exposed terrain between about 2200m and 2400m as well as the southern exposure from about 2400m upwards". In addition, they warn you for the light and cold snow that can easily be transported by the wind (slab avalanches).
Please ride with care! Never go out alone (reliable powder buddies are a MUST), always bring the necessary gear (shovel, probe, avalanche beacon) and inform yourself at the local avalanche services.
Shred save! Patrick