Started by Admin in Avalanche Safety 08-Jan-2019 - 3 Replies
Firstly, for anyone in the affected areas; please be patient and follow the advice of the local authorities.
The snow conditions, the forecasts and the local effects of the weather vary hugely from valley to valley and the situation will be evolving as more snow arrives this week, so it's important to take local advice!
> is it safe to go skiing?
Yes, absolutely; provided local conditions and advice allow. The French Alps, much of Switzerland and Italy have not received the quantities of snow that Austria and southern Germany has.
Even in the affected areas, the resort staff will be working hard in difficult conditions to make things safe and if lifts and pistes are open then they should be safe to ski (and conditions will be fabulous) - provided you stay within the marked bounds of the pistes.
The caveat - of course - is that if lifts and runs are closed, they will be shut due to very dangerous conditions; so don't even think about entering a closed run! You should consider a closed run to be as dangerous as skiing off-piste at the moment.
As an aside; road closures should be strictly obeyed - some resort roads may be closed at times due to risk of avalanche or for avalanche clearance (blasting) to take place. Don't go down closed roads!
More experienced skiers will be looking to leave the pistes and we would strongly advise everyone - again - to take local advice and err on the side of caution. Once things have settled down; continue to follow local resort advice, never ski off-piste alone and always carry appropriate safety gear (transceiver, shovel and probe) and know how to use it.
> Where has the highest avalanche risk?
Avalanche Risk Levels are assessed on a common scale running from 1 (low risk) to 5 (extreme risk). Large areas of Austria currently have the Risk Level at 4 (and even 5) in places. The Avalanche Risk Levels apply only to off-piste, "uncontrolled" areas - they do not apply to open pistes.
Again, Avalanche Risk Levels vary considerably - although they are all pretty high in Austria right now!
> is this season in particular worse than any other
Not really, no. You could say this month is bad, specifically for the affected parts of Austria right now; the quantities of snow in *some* locations have broken 40-year-old records in the past week. On the other hand, France has had very little fresh snow in the past fortnight whilst last year saw some French resorts in lockdown through much of the New Year week due to huge falls of snow. It happens; it's not "usual", but it's not really unprecedented either.
In essence; "be patient, and take local advice!".
And, of course, if the lifts and pistes are all closed... there's probably a bar that isn't!
Anyone in Austria right now like to add to this?
Avalanche Risk Level 5 now declared for parts of northern Upper Styria (as of 18:00 local time, today, Tuesday 8th January)
The following translated from https://steiermark.orf.at/news/stories/2957427/
steiermark.orf.at wrote:For individual regions in northern Upper Styria, the highest avalanche warning level will apply from 6 pm onwards. In individual cases should then be weighed, whether buildings are evacuated. More than 1,500 people are still cut off.
On Tuesday afternoon, a so-called Land Coordination Committee with Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer (ÖVP) and LH-Stv. Michael Schickhofer (SPÖ). The emergency services informed the state government about the current situation in northern Upper Styria and they discussed the further course of action.
The danger situation is geographically very different. While there is no danger in Schladming or Haus, the situation in the high alpine area is very critical. Avalanche warning level five therefore applies in the areas from the Dachstein over the Loser and the Hochschwab to the Rax.
As a reminder (see Avalanche Risk Levels), Level 5 is :-
Very High (Extreme) - Snow pack is weakly bonded and largely unstable - Numerous large natural (spontaneous) avalanches are likely, even on moderately steep terrain.
Full bulletin (in English) at :- http://www.lawine-steiermark.at/lagebericht/avalanche-bulletin
From the Dachstein over Totes Gebirge to Hochschwab, avalanche danger has increased to very high. In the southern mountain ranges, danger is considerable or moderate. As a result of additional snowfall, the burden of the fresh snow atop the old snowpack has grown further. Thus, more large and very large avalanches can be expected in all aspects. Slides across steep, grass-covered hills can occur at any time of day or night.
Topic last updated on 08-January-2019 at 18:45