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Backcountry skiing #1 Safety first

Silent, sumptuous and delicious, the white gold takes possession of the resort. Winter settles comfortably into the resort, much to the delight of skiers.
It’s time to explore the mountains, seek out untouched slopes and get away from the crowds.

This is where off-piste safety comes into its own. Understanding the laws of nature, equipping yourself, observing, keeping your judgment in check and training are all elements you need to take into account to ski off-piste more serenely. Nevertheless, whether you’re out snowshoeing or freeriding, skiing or splitboarding, you can never eliminate risk entirely.

Equipment

The key to a successful outing is to be properly equipped. Always carry a DVA (Détecteur de Victime Avalanche), a shovel (stainless steel) and a probe (metal). For added safety, it’s a good idea to carry a first-aid kit and a cell phone. It’s important to practice using your safety equipment several times, so that you can master it perfectly on the day of the outing.

Our tips for proper use of equipment:

  • Choose a good brand of avalanche transceiver* with a wider search range.
  • Put new batteries in the avalanche transceiver (the battery power level must be at least 90% for each outing). Don’t hesitate to spend a few extra euros for a good brand of batteries).
  • While searching for the victim, keep your cell phone at least 30 cm away from the DVA to avoid interference.
  • We strongly advise you to probe with gloves on: your hands won’t get cold, and above all, you’ll prevent the probe from becoming surrounded by a layer of ice, which would render it unusable.

Risk factors

To determine the best course of action, we need to analyze the 3 main risk factors: conditions, terrain and group. This applies to all 3 phases: preparation, approach and on the slope. This can be done using the 3×3 avalanche risk management analysis.

This time for reflection allows you to better apprehend the outing and to be more serene in your practice (while remaining alert and attentive to surrounding signals).

Reflection: gain experience by analyzing the outing and sounding out each member of the group to find out how they felt. Were there any surprises? What would I do differently next time?

7 important points to remember

  1. Know the group we are going with and everyone’s level
  2. Know the weather and avalanche conditions.
  3. Own and know how to use a avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe. Systematically check all equipment on departure. Put fresh batteries in your avalanche transceiver. Have a means of alert and know the emergency number: La Régie des Piste (04.79.06.02.10 for Val d’Isère), noted on the ski pass, on the piste maps and in the application), if necessary it is also possible to call 112.
  4. Find out about the area we’re going to. Know where you are if you need to call for help (which commune, which resort, which lift, which slope). If so, simply open the map function on your phone, activate geolocation and press and hold the blue dot representing you. This will display your geolocation points (latitude, longitude).
  5. Equip yourself with a rucksack: warm gloves, hat, sunglasses, sun cream, first-aid kit (survival blanket, whistle, wound dressing material and strips for making a makeshift splint with poles, for example), a repair kit for ski or splitboard equipment, snacks and a thermos of hot drinks.
  6. Keep your distance on descents, keep an eye on each other and stop at strategic places that are safe from avalanches.
  7. Practice your avalanche transceiver regularly (between outings).

The mountains welcome us 365 days a year, but some days are more dangerous than others. You have to know how to analyze the terrain, but also how to give up if the lights aren’t green.

We wish you the very best of powder and gentle slopes!

*For workers in the Val d’Isère resort, it is possible to obtain equipment on loan (avalanche transceiver/shovel/probe) from the Association Vie Val d’Is. All you need is an Avalanche Prevention session and your season pass.

Val d'Isère and its art of living

The Col de l'Iseran is open   The Col de l'Iseran is open  
☀️Summer season: June 29th to September 1st, 2024 ❄️ Winter season: November 30th, 2024 to May 4th, 2025
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