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Off-piste skiing #3 Advice from Henry's Avalanche Talk

Arriving at the resort over 30 years ago, Henry gives avalanche prevention talks to help skiers better prepare for off-piste outings. We took advantage of his expertise to ask him a few questions about off-piste safety.

Preparing your ski touring outings

How do you prepare your ski touring outings?

Henry: I start the day knowing that we have to distinguish between two zones when we’re skiing: the marked pistes, where the ski patrols are in charge of our safety, and the off-piste (even 2m from the pistes), where it’s our responsibility to manage the risks.

9 times out of 10, the victim triggers the avalanche. We only have (on average) 15 minutes to survive under an avalanche, so you need to have the right equipment with you (avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe). The advice I can give is:

  • Know where the safe zones start and end(piste map).
  • Apply risk-reduction points (managing the group and the terrain, studying the weather and avalanche bulletins, listening for signs of risk encountered during the outing, being equipped and knowing how to use it).
  • Watch risk forecasts(Météo-France and Bulletin d’ Estimation du Risque d’Avalanche). Know the risk indexes (most accidents occur in indexes 2 and 3, so don’t underestimate them!). Look at recent avalanche activity, talk to the pisteurs. Prepare the day before, the day of and on the slope.
  • Keep an eye on the slope of the off-piste terrain you’ll be using (an avalanche will rarely start on a slope of less than 30°C – which corresponds roughly to a red run).
  • Take on an off-piste ski instructor

Warning signs

What are the signals (surface clues) that can alert us to a likely avalanche?

Henry: Clues like recent activity, terrain, terrain traps (cliffs, fir trees…) look at where we’ll be taken if an avalanche starts. An avalanche is very difficult to predict, but the advice I can give is to avoid steep slopes above a cliff or hole or trees.

Safety is freedom!

What do you like about ski touring in Val d’Isère?

Henry: Val d’Isère is an extraordinary resort for off-piste skiing, because you can ski on all the slopes (north, south, east and west faces). We can choose our outing according to the BERA forecasts, so we know which slopes to choose. I also like the Val d’Isère ski area for the quality of the snow and the safety.

Safety is freedom!

 

Find out more Snow conditions And the weather

How do you find out about snow and weather conditions?

Henry:

  • Listen to Radio Val d’Isère: 96.1 FM
    8:30 a.m. Interview with the ski area manager to find out about snow conditions, slope openings and avalanche risks in the off-piste area.
  • Every evening at 5pm, there’s an update on the following day’s BRA.
  • Henry’s Avalanche Talk: website, blog, conferences and training courses on snowmaking.
  • ESF avalanche prevention and avalanche transceiver search workshops: every Monday at 5.30pm, open to the public.
  • Avalanche prevention workshops offered by Vie Val d’Is. Ski and snowboard-oriented sessions (at the Maison de Val), plus outdoor avalanche transceiver exercises.
  • BERA: Bulletin d’Estimation du Risque d’Avalanche (Avalanche Risk Assessment Bulletin) available free of charge on meteofrance.com under the heading
  • Mountain, on the Météo-France and Météo-France Ski et Neige Apps. Also available from the Tourist Office, and from the ski patrols (BERA posted at rescue stations).

Val d'Isère and its art of living

The Col de l'Iseran is closed until further notice (exceptional snow conditions). Access for summer skiing is open. The Col de l'Iseran is closed until further notice (exceptional snow conditions). Access for summer skiing is open.
☀️Summer season: June 29th to September 1st, 2024 ❄️ Winter season: November 30th, 2024 to May 4th, 2025
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