Avalanche expert warns for dangerous conditions

By Rogier on 27 January 2021 · 1

Avalanche expert warns for dangerous conditions
Avalanche expert warns for dangerous conditions

Alain Duclos is the avalanche expert in France. He helps ski resorts, municipalities, départements and mountain rescue to analyse the avalanche risk in the French Alps. He is always in the snow and there is no one in France who knows the situation as well as he does. In his opinion the current situation in the French Alps is so incredibly tense, that he has sent out a message to all the French mountain guides and ski resorts. Here is my translation of the message:

"The situation at the beginning of this winter is peculiar, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better, at least at altitude. I know this kind of news makes some people grumble, but hey: 2 Swiss guides and a French ski instructor died last weekend in several avalanches. It would be little serious not to learn from them.

At the moment: bad news:

  • The snow cover is generally relatively thin, and weak layers are easy to trigger, even if the snow cover is sometimes greater than average at lower altitudes on Chartreuse, Bauges, Aravis, etc. Higher up in the mountains there is less snow than usual;
  • This danger, concerns all exposures and is not limited to the shaded slopes;
  • Remote triggering is particularly common, due to persistent weak layers (caused by thin snow cover + often very cold surface temperatures);
  • Triggered slab avalanches are often very large, again due to persistent weak layers;
  • The wind, which has been blowing in almost all directions for the last ten days, has formed accumulations on all exposures;
  • The thaw of the past weekend has not helped the situation above about 1500 m: the return of the cold has only caused crusts up to about 2000 m, but not a deep stabilisation (variable according to the massifs and exposures of course).

Still to come: more bad news

  • Mild temperatures and heavy rain are forecast for Savoie and Haute Savoie from Wednesday evening;
  • Expect a lot of avalanche activity with the rain and mild temperatures;
  • We will have to fear big (spontaneous) avalanches at altitude (again because of the buried weak layers), which will mobilise big avalanches this time... these avalanches may reach very far into the valley.

  • In short: this current avalanche situation is not usual and more dangerous than normal.
  • Conclusion: be more careful and cautious than usual.
  • What to do: wax well to glide even better and ski in less than 30°".

Clear words from this avalanche expert. The conditions in the French Alps (but also in Switzerland) are extremely tense. The proof is the several fatal avalanche accidents in the French Alps. Be extremely careful (and more careful than usual) if you go into the snow now.


  • Mabvan
    Mabvan op 27 January 2021 · 14:09
    Something that was very rarely mentioned until this winter is the compacting effect of the passage of skiers and boarders. In addition to the rare meteo/snow conditions, this compacting effect is obviously missing this winter.

    This factor (along with the rare meteo/snow conditions), is rendering areas that under certain meteo, we thought of as 'safe(er)' to be unsafe, against years of experience. I think this is why even experienced professionals are getting caught out.
    *message edited by Mabvan op 27 Jan 2021 14:09 (1% bewerkt)


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