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Safety of Off-Piste Skiing in Europe - Page 2

post #31 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post

I found biggest issue was not avalanche control but cliffs, chutes and other double black stuff in the middle of a blue run. Yes there was signage (small) and it was marked on the trail map but areas that would have been roped off and closed in North America or marked with a skull and crossbones are simply noted with a regular trail sign saying something like "Caution - Cliff Ahead". Just use your head and recognize that it's a different paradigm. Not better or worse - just different.



 

 

Yep, all the time. Cruisin on a blue piste, jump a couple tens or hundreds vertical feet off the piste and you can be staring at chutes, couloirs, or cliffs of death.

post #32 of 46

"Cliff Ahead"? You kidding me? There are two great reasons why they don't bother signing these in the Alps.

  1. The assumption is that you've been skiing in said parts for years and years. If not, you're an outsider, and God forbid anyone who's not your paid guide should give a f**k about you.
  2. You know how many bloody languages they'd have to do that sign in? Way too much trouble.
post #33 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

"Cliff Ahead"? You kidding me? There are two great reasons why they don't bother signing these in the Alps.

  1. The assumption is that you've been skiing in said parts for years and years. If not, you're an outsider, and God forbid anyone who's not your paid guide should give a f**k about you.
  2. You know how many bloody languages they'd have to do that sign in? Way too much trouble.



At the top of Mont Fort, I remember a couple of signs basically saying you should think about what you're getting yourself into. They were in French, German, English, and maybe Italian (can't remember for certain); it was a lot of signage for such a short message.

 

Based on my experiences elsewhere, I'm surprized they even went to that much trouble.

 

One of these days, I'll need to ski down that blue in Alagna that leads to the top of the ginormous cliff, just to see if they ever put up some ropes or a sign. They've got it marked on the piste map, but I'm curious if they ever bother to do anything more.

 

 

 

post #34 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post



I think some resorts are starting to cater a bit more towards those who are inbetween pure piste lovers and serious off-piste skiers, people who want some ungroomed snow without the dangers of full off-piste skiing. Espace Killy has its "nature rides" (almost all of which are in Tignes), the Arlberg area has its ski routes (not to be confused with its high alpine routes, which are not avi controlled), Laax has freeride routes, and so on. These are ungroomed trails that have piste markers and are avi controlled. Usually, they are bumped up. But when it snows, you can get some powder turns in.

 

 

 

I'd add Les Arcs to your "nature rides" list.  They also have some decent (off piste) tree skiing around 1600.

 

Couple things to think about: Europe is off to a slow snow start, so hopefully your trip is more towards the Spring- not saying that it can't start dumping and be good before x-mas, but the odds probably favor Feb or March.

 

Switzerland is not the cheapest place- although the US$ has come back against the CH Franc since August, it is still likely to be pricey.  France might be a better bet if flying into Geneva and Austria better if flying into Zurich.

post #35 of 46

Switzerland is pricey this year for sure. I'd just wait to see if Italy gets kicked out of the euro; skiing will be dirt cheap here for Americans at that point...

post #36 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

"Cliff Ahead"? You kidding me? There are two great reasons why they don't bother signing these in the Alps.
  1. The assumption is that you've been skiing in said parts for years and years. If not, you're an outsider, and God forbid anyone who's not your paid guide should give a f**k about you.
  2. You know how many bloody languages they'd have to do that sign in? Way too much trouble.

I don't think it's as involved as that.

They just live in a part of the world where people take responsibility for their actions and don't hide behind ambulance chasing lawyers.
post #37 of 46

Nah, that's not it. Europeans are statists, remember...

post #38 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post



I think some resorts are starting to cater a bit more towards those who are inbetween pure piste lovers and serious off-piste skiers, people who want some ungroomed snow without the dangers of full off-piste skiing. Espace Killy has its "nature rides" (almost all of which are in Tignes), the Arlberg area has its ski routes (not to be confused with its high alpine routes, which are not avi controlled), Laax has freeride routes, and so on. These are ungroomed trails that have piste markers and are avi controlled. Usually, they are bumped up. But when it snows, you can get some powder turns in.

 

I think if more people continue to move towards wider skis with an intent to get some powder turns (I get the impression a lot of Brits are catching on to this), I think you might see resorts converting some more of their groomed pistes into ungroomed/freeride/ski routes. But, since that powder movement isn't nearly as wide-spread over here, it will take a long time. A lot of people still love carving the corduroy.

 



 This is definitely spot-on.  I've been skiing once a year in Racing-Mad Austria for the past 6 seasons.  While Racing is still priority, resorts continue to add "itineraries" or un-groomed, avi-controlled routes to ski.  A year or two ago the Kitzsteinhorn glacier in Kaprun added "Freeride Routes."  They are marked, deep powder routes on the glacier.  I don't believe they're avi-controlled (they might be), but they do have an "Alpine Center" which lists conditions & I believe they rope off the areas if avi-danger is high.  I'm know (and drink with!) several Austrian ski instructors & they all agree that 'Freeriding' is the direction skiing over there is heading.  It may never eclipse the importance of racing, but it's definitely growing.  They actually laugh at me because I telemark over there.  Can't tell you how many times I've heard "telemarking is dead!"  The older guys love the nostalgia though!

post #39 of 46

I would like to add that most of those "natural" or "freeride" routes like Val D'Isere, or "orange" routes like in Switzerland, are not avalanche controlled or patrolled. I heard an avalanche happened over by Tortin in Verbier in the past few years when I was there.

post #40 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post
 

Resorts usually do avi control on areas where a slide could carry on to the groomed piste, but there aren't many of those. Any other off-piste area is generally not touched.

 

That said, there are loads of off-piste skiers in Europe, but the amount you'll run into depends on the resort you're skiing. For example, if you go to Verbier, you'll see tons of them. But in a place like Arosa, you'll see a lot fewer. Just be sure to check the conditions where you're skiing. Most resorts will have indicators to show the overal danger level for the day.

 

Now, in addition to checking the avi danger, you'll also need to make sure you scope out your entire line to make sure you have a safe exit route. That's because European resorts have no qualms about throwing a bunch of pistes in an area with giant cliffs and other dangers. So, even though a line might look lovely at the top, it could lead you to a cliff, stream, or something else you don't want to encounter. You can't just blindly ski a new line without scoping it out; it can be pretty dangerous.

 

One last thing to mention is the trees. Some resorts in western Switzerland don't mind you skiing in the trees, but most places in the rest of the country consider them off limits and might hand out a hefty fine if they catch you. You can usually tell which resorts do this by taking a look at the trail map (they'll show a picture of a skier with a line through it).

@CerebralVortex : I am doing some reading on off piste skiing and came across this thread from 2011, which has a statement about: "scope out" your entire line...... "without scoping it out, it can be dangerous".  Can someone explain what does scope out mean?  How to do this (i.e. scope out)?  

post #41 of 46
Check out, inspect. Make sure you understand the dangers of the whole route before you end up boxed into something you can't get out of.
post #42 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

@CerebralVortex : I am doing some reading on off piste skiing and came across this thread from 2011, which has a statement about: "scope out" your entire line...... "without scoping it out, it can be dangerous".  Can someone explain what does scope out mean?  How to do this (i.e. scope out)?  

 

If you ask this question, hire a guide. Be proactive and ask what he/she is looking at and considering when choosing a line for the group. Even if you're an experienced bc skier, local knowledge is a very good thing in Europe. There's just so much 'there' there. 

post #43 of 46
Scope out means check your line "goes" from top to bottom and any major nav points where you need to make the right choice. In Europe in an unfamiliar area as well as paying attention to avys I'll often take traverses to look at at the top and bottom of the next line over and gradually push out. After all in Europe if you follow someone's tracks blindly they might be a speedflyer and you can have a very bad day getting cliffed out.
post #44 of 46
If you don't know the area and conditions, hire a guide. Easy.
post #45 of 46

At a place like Grands Montets at Chamonix it's pretty easy to see evaluate off piste lines between the pistes from the map, the lifts, and the pistes and stay out of trouble. If it hasn't snowed in a few days these areas will be bumped out. OTOH there's no way to evaluate the lines that go down to the Argentiere glacier, which involve avalanche risk and crevasses and the risk of getting cliffed out. You ski these with a guide or at least with someone who knows where they're going and both of you know how to do a crevasse rescue.(And even people in guided groups and guides themselves fall into crevasses from time to time.) If you do plan to ski off piste do buy rescue insurance--5E/daythat you buy with your pass. And at a major resort it is worth it to ski with a guide.While joining a guided group isn't cheap, depending on the resort the cheaper lifts and lodging make up for it. Even if you manage to muddle through on your own the major areas are huge and complicated and you can waste a lot of time and effort trying to figure them out in the week or two you are there.

Definitely know how to read an avalanche report (in France, except for the numerical rating, these are in French) and understand that level 2--moderate--still carries some risk. There are also flags at the resorts--yellow is level one (low). checkered is level 2 or 3 (moderate or considerable) and black means 4-5 (high or extreme, iow don't go). Or it could mean ISIS has conquered the resort. For 2-3 you want a beacon to ski off piste, a shovel and probe, a partner, and training.

 

The Euros don't control everything not because they are trying to kill Americans or keep them away or out of arrogance or perversity or some cultural imperative. The big resorts are simply too big and wild. They do plenty of bombing and other avy control work where they can. Imagine if Jackson Hole resort was not in the foothills of the Tetons, mostly below treeline, but in the heart of the Teton range.

post #46 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

@CerebralVortex : I am doing some reading on off piste skiing and came across this thread from 2011, which has a statement about: "scope out" your entire line...... "without scoping it out, it can be dangerous".  Can someone explain what does scope out mean?  How to do this (i.e. scope out)?  

 

A couple of people beat me to the answer already, so I'll just add the reasoning behind it. There are often times in the Alps when you are riding a lift or skiing along a piste that cuts across the mountain and you'll see what looks like a really nice patch of snow that no one has skied. And from your vantage point, it might look perfectly safe, at least as far as you can see. But, there's a chance that there is a hidden danger that you can't see from where you are. You might not even be able to see it when you are only a few meters above it.

 

So, when you're thinking about jumping off the piste, even if it's only a little bit to the side, you have to make sure that the terrain has a safe exit either onto another piste or leading to something like a road or walk path that you can use to get back to the piste, town, or lift base.

 

Most of the time when I'm not skiing with a guide, I'll check out the terrain I want to ski when I'm riding the lift. I'll check out the entire line and make a note of the exits and hazards, as well as the best looking snow. Sometimes, I can do this from a piste that runs below or adjacent to the terrain I'm interested in, so I might stop a couple of times along the piste before going back to the top to ski terrain that I have been checking.

 

That said, there is a lot of terrain that you can't really check from the lifts or other pistes. Skiing with a guided group is a great way to see the best bits of the mountain.

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