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Off Piste in Europe Avvy concerns

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Alright, so I probably already know the answer to this, but here's the deal:

I'm advanced/expert level skier who's done tons of off piste stuff in the US but am taking my second trip to Europe this year and plan on skiing a bit off piste, but am a little concerned about avalanches there, since they don't do the same kind of avalanche control there that you find off piste at US resorts. Am I totally irresponsible for venturing off piste without training/beacons, probes, shovels, etc... anyone have anymore insight as to how much avvy control they do at Euro resorts??

Thanks...
post #2 of 27
Off piste in Europe you are on your own, same as ducking the rope in the USA. For example Flaine bowl has lots of very nice looking off piste between the runs, it also has pot holes everywhere........................as the the rock is limestone, its a bit dangerous unless you have a guide or know it very well. A really excellent site to look at is www.pistehors.com The trails and anything that threatens the trails is avalanche patrolled, but even just off them may not be, the areas are much too big. The web site will tell you more.
post #3 of 27
Take a suitably qualified mouintain guide or instructor - don't go alone. You'll just p155 everyone off that has to put their lives at risk by coming to dig you out... or else they'll just leave you.

It's different over here. They measure ski areas by length rather than area for a reason!

Having said all that - come on over and get some top quality off piste. We love showing our continent off to our American cousins :-)
post #4 of 27
I think they do a lot of controls here with some expections like la Grave and my home mountain. At my home mountain we have 3000Feet Vert (one big gondola only, 30° average steepness, sometimes up to 60° but no controlls at all. Security even needs 1 hour to come in. However most people are reasonable and keep care. Youre not allowed to enter the gondola without beacon, probe and one shovel per group.
After skiing there for the last 7 years just this tuesday I got carried down the hill 90m Vert in a around 50° chute by an ground near avalanche. Luckily I could ski out of it without much damage (only ripped a ligament in my thumb) before the whole avy went down around another 250m vert and some bad ass cliffs and quite a lot of trees.
However that is very unlikely and was kinda dumb from my side at avy danger level 4 out of 5 to ski in that average 45° chute. That was the first avalanche for me in my life.
Otherwise I think Europe is quite save for avalanches. I think Canada or Alaska are way more dangerous. Places like St.Anton even got a private helicopter to bomb down avalanches aver heavy snowfalls.
If you stay on skiroutes and in the lift serverd terrain you're O.K. If you do ski touring your on your own. Thats were it gets really dangerous and where there are no controlls at all.

Skiing with a beacon off piste is still highly recommendable. On piste there is no need at all. in ski routes declared open it is quite safe too but an avy beacon wouldn't be bad.
post #5 of 27
We are beating a dead horse here again, search function would bring up all infos on that. Just briefly:

- Skiing the untracked pow beside the groomers is normally o.k. as long as it is not marked as avy-prone or roped off. That said, beacon is a minimum requirement all the time and you are always responsible for your own actions when leaving the marked and groomed runs.
- As soon as venturing further out make sure to have the full equipment mentioned and are in company of s.o. who knows the terrain and got a winter moutaineering background. When hiring a guide ask whether he is UIAA certified - don't go less.
- There are places like Arlberg, Cham, La Grave, Engelberg ect. where it can make sense to wear avy gear on a pow day even if you ski inbounds.
- Since air rescue can be outrageously pricey make sure to have insurance coverage (carte neige, alpine club membership - contact the tourist office of your chosen location for infos) before you come over here.

With the above and according snow conditions it could be the trip of your lifetime for sure.
post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremecarver
Youre not allowed to enter the gondola without beacon, probe and one shovel per group..
One shovel per group isnt enough, got to be at least two if the one that gets buried is the one that carries the shovel.
And one of the shovels should be with the last skier, always, to save time climbing up to the place.
Time is the main enemy against the one buried.
And my wife has the best shovel among us, not me, even if Im the stronger one. She is the one thats supposed to dig me out..

Test the beakons, train in their usage, there is no time to read instructions after an accident.
post #7 of 27
A video of a small avalanche at the Pic de Piau (pyrénées - France), shooted in subjective view.
http://www.skipass.com/articles/sais...lanche6500.php
Note that the video was shooted in late november, before the opening of the resort and, thus, without avy control.
Thin snow base, reasonable run (30-35°), north facing slope... and still.
A very impressive view when the snow pack broke...
post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by cardweg
We love showing our continent off to our American cousins :-)
Our continent? Since when is Ireland part of Europe?
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesdeluxe
Our continent? Since when is Ireland part of Europe?
Well, one answer would be 1973... http://europa.eu.int/abc/history/1973/index_en.htm
and
http://www.johnadams.org.uk/Images/IrishPassport.jpg
post #10 of 27
It'd better be, we paid them loads to join us.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremecarver
I think they do a lot of controls here with some expections like la Grave and my home mountain. At my home mountain we have 3000Feet Vert (one big gondola only, 30° average steepness, sometimes up to 60° but no controlls at all. Security even needs 1 hour to come in. However most people are reasonable and keep care. Youre not allowed to enter the gondola without beacon, probe and one shovel per group.
After skiing there for the last 7 years just this tuesday I got carried down the hill 90m Vert in a around 50° chute by an ground near avalanche. Luckily I could ski out of it without much damage (only ripped a ligament in my thumb) before the whole avy went down around another 250m vert and some bad ass cliffs and quite a lot of trees.
However that is very unlikely and was kinda dumb from my side at avy danger level 4 out of 5 to ski in that average 45° chute. That was the first avalanche for me in my life.
Otherwise I think Europe is quite save for avalanches. I think Canada or Alaska are way more dangerous. Places like St.Anton even got a private helicopter to bomb down avalanches aver heavy snowfalls.
If you stay on skiroutes and in the lift serverd terrain you're O.K. If you do ski touring your on your own. Thats were it gets really dangerous and where there are no controlls at all.

Skiing with a beacon off piste is still highly recommendable. On piste there is no need at all. in ski routes declared open it is quite safe too but an avy beacon wouldn't be bad.
Hi, could you give me(us) some info on your home resort? Planning to go next week to Krippenstein and Planneralm for the first time...Just a bit scared of all the people (esp. from Czech Rep who go to these resorts...looking for some small (hidden) place with good freeriding possibilities...btw: any advice on cheap accomodation in Kripp? Jugendherberge seems to be full...THANX!
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by cardweg
Having said all that - come on over and get some top quality off piste. We love showing our continent off to our American cousins :-)
Showing off - No.

Sharing a slope, a few turns and a couple of beers - yeah.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2-czech
Hi, could you give me(us) some info on your home resort? Planning to go next week to Krippenstein and Planneralm for the first time...Just a bit scared of all the people (esp. from Czech Rep who go to these resorts...looking for some small (hidden) place with good freeriding possibilities...btw: any advice on cheap accomodation in Kripp? Jugendherberge seems to be full...THANX!
Got your PM.

Forget Mauerbach it's just a one lift wonder.

General link for Austria ski resorts
http://www.bergfex.com/austria/

local family resort near to Vienna (2 hrs by car)
http://www.hochkar.com/index.php?id=129&L=1


Not been yet but Krippenstein is more freeride and has loads of snow (3metres / 117")

http://www.bergfex.com/krippenstein/?lang=en

If there's a big mountain near Krems or Mödling then it's ruddy well hidden
post #14 of 27
Thanks for the PM and all the info! Now it just needs to snow a little bit
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by DangerousBrian
If there's a big mountain near Krems or Mödling then it's ruddy well hidden
It is truly well hidden. However I promise to bring in and introduce everyone who is enthusiastic about snowboard carving/racing or ski racing (against some gate training in exchange which I expect from you) to it. Unluckily probabely next year as this year in Austria is only 4 more weeks for me (afterwards I'm off for France for 6 month) and I'm handicapped due to an ground near avalanche that took me apart in exactly that resort. (got taken down 90m in height at a 50° couloir and ripped a ligament in my thumb - maybe I take the risk of boarding anyhow but I'm not that sure yet). Maybe 100-200 people know that resort and have been there more than once. The day I let loose that avy there were maybe 20 people only. Noone on will tell you on the internet where to find it. We don't want it crowded. Too many Viennease kids ruining our mountain already - damn them - there were even talks about closing it down due to the great danger -

Some great fotos from the Hochkar or Hirschenkogel snowboard carving action are enough for me as proof but I rather go with you together to that mountain as it is really dangerous and not a single controller nor security to call in in case of accident under 60min.


Meanwhile:
For carving: Hirschenkogel (50min from Mödling). Hochkar 1H50min. Ötscher (not as good as Hochkar which is actually one of the best resorts for carving in Europe during.

For freeriding: HIKE: Schneeberg, Ötscher, back side of Hochkar,
Lift served: Sonnwendstein (closed for the season), Mitterbach (great intermediate resort).

Mauerbach is the local viennease slope. Actually in the past there were Slalom Worldcup races. really crappy.

If you're coming to Austria for Freeriding from foreign countries go to: Arlberg (esp St.Anton and Zürs - Lech is a bit flat) or Krippenstein.
post #16 of 27
to extremecarver:

Hey that sounds like fun! Well if your thumb gets better let me know, I would definitely like to experience something new and close to where I am from (its just 4 hour drive from Prague) ... i am now waiting for Kripp to get some dump so we can come over for couple of days... btw would you share some pics? that would be great... thanx!
post #17 of 27
Spent six months in 3 valleys france last season. Not a big season, not really big mountains (mt blanc being the highest). that said people were dropping like flies. HOWEVER, they were skiing in KNOWN high avalanche areas. Most of the people who died were skiing the same run in courcheval. There were reports of some people getting buried in a slide onto a trail, rescue went in and got hit aswell. Bad.

So europe has massive ski areas (3 valleys is largest in the world). Off piste is everywhere you look. They do massive amounts of bombing from cables, carried, and heli but this is mainly to protect the groomers and trails. Dont forget that the mountains can get very steep at the top, (chamonix is extreme capital of the world ! The locals there dont do video shoots. They free climb massive near verticle chutes up the side of mt blanc then ski em on their own. Some of these chutes are just wide enough to turn in. They are nuts. The dont do it for glory, its just the way they live. "If it has snow we ski it.")

DO AN AVALANCHE COURSE !!!!
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by audas
Spent six months in 3 valleys france last season. Not a big season, not really big mountains (mt blanc being the highest). that said people were dropping like flies. HOWEVER, they were skiing in KNOWN high avalanche areas. Most of the people who died were skiing the same run in courcheval. There were reports of some people getting buried in a slide onto a trail, rescue went in and got hit aswell. Bad.
Yeah, I remember that, think it was one of the weeks we were there (in fact Mr Eng said he saw it) but I can't remember which run it was? As I recall, though, it was set off by a couple of off-pisters and went onto the piste, taking out the people on the piste as well as the people who set it off?

And a couple of years ago Meribel lost an instructor and a (number of?) student(s?) on a blue piste
post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremecarver
It is truly well hidden. However I promise to bring in and introduce everyone who is enthusiastic about snowboard carving/racing or ski racing (against some gate training in exchange which I expect from you) to it. Unluckily probabely next year as this year in Austria is only 4 more weeks for me (afterwards I'm off for France for 6 month) and I'm handicapped due to an ground near avalanche that took me apart in exactly that resort. (got taken down 90m in height at a 50° couloir and ripped a ligament in my thumb - maybe I take the risk of boarding anyhow but I'm not that sure yet). Maybe 100-200 people know that resort and have been there more than once. The day I let loose that avy there were maybe 20 people only. Noone on will tell you on the internet where to find it. We don't want it crowded. Too many Viennease kids ruining our mountain already - damn them - there were even talks about closing it down due to the great danger -
I can't offer you any gate training, you'd be best joining a local ski club for that. From your description of this mystery mountain (1 gondola, 3000 ft vert) pretty sure I know where it is. I'm off to St Anton next week but will take a look when I get back.
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by eng_ch
Yeah, I remember that, think it was one of the weeks we were there (in fact Mr Eng said he saw it) but I can't remember which run it was? As I recall, though, it was set off by a couple of off-pisters and went onto the piste, taking out the people on the piste as well as the people who set it off?

And a couple of years ago Meribel lost an instructor and a (number of?) student(s?) on a blue piste
yeah one of the locals was complaining about the "tourists" heading off-piste... as he said he was NOT allowed off-piste until he had been skiing 10 years when he learnt to ski..... it just did not happen...

Now they ski for a season grab some fat skis and are off... he says it is not fair to those that risk lives to try to get them back
post #21 of 27
Dangerous Brian, I think I know what Extremecarvers upto on the weekends and that's either Ötscher or Stuhleck, but what does he mean freesking in Hirschenkogel??? Maybe with alittle imagination and LSD that's possible, Anyway Mödling does have a big hill with an old T-bar, it's called Misthaufen. Pretty much everyone from Mödling loves to go to the Misthaufen on the weekends.
Hohe Wand Wiese is also a possibility, with the treacherous snowboarder kids building ramps on every square foot of the slope to the enjoyment of everyone during the night skiing.
Yeah you guessed it most of these kids when they're not at the Misthaufen are boarding on the Hohewandwiese.

Dangerous Brian If you want to truth, just have to imagine a mountain after which an entire mountain range is named in Lower Austria, and I have to say that Extremecarver is truely a conniseur.

Prost, Prosst, Prossssst!

ExtremeCarver do you know where I can find the avalanche warning levels for lower austria on the net.

Good bye and Schi Heil(No it's not what you think it is)
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by davehor
Dangerous Brian, I think I know what Extremecarvers upto on the weekends and that's either Ötscher or Stuhleck
You're joking aren't you? Lachenhof is schlepplift city and Stuhleck is full of Wieners (I was there last Sat) niether of which have a single gondola.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davehor
but what does he mean freesking in Hirschenkogel??? Maybe with alittle imagination and LSD that's possible
........ on the playstation, although Semmering is good for the bump/buckelpiste when there's very little snow elsewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davehor
Dangerous Brian If you want to truth, just have to imagine a mountain after which an entire mountain range is named in Lower Austria, and I have to say that Extremecarver is truely a conniseur.
That's where I'm thinking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davehor
ExtremeCarver do you know where I can find the avalanche warning levels for lower austria on the net.
Maybe there's something in this link
http://members.inode.at/bergrettung/lawinendienste.htm
post #23 of 27
Well you got me. However we have just had 2 exceptional years. Normally it sucks down at the bottom.

Unluckily there exists no avalanche report for Lower Austria. Read through the Styrian one + the one for Upper Austria to get a general idea.

And hey - Hirschengokel got a gondola too - maybe I'm there:
- If you go down from Hirschenkogel to Maria Schutz you have as well 3000 feet.
I NEVER GO TO STUHLECK!!!!!!!! -that place sucks outright.

Lackenhof Ötscher isn't too bad - there can be had some decent middle steep (like up to max 40°) freeriding too and the slopes aren't too bad either. It's the only possible resort to go to if one gets up early and on the way to the Hochkar notices that they didn't get the roads free (Mitterbach would mean two alpine passes - and sometimes (only during weektime) they are lazy at the Hochkar cleaning up their road.
post #24 of 27
I only go to Stuhleck when there's not much new powder around and I can't be bothered driving any further. Was there last Sat just to try some new skis out on the piste. There normally tends to be a lot less people at Stuhleck than Semmering and the new tunnel makes it easy to get to.

Had one of my best powder days at Lackenhof once, drove all the way to Hochkar and it was a complete without out with fog. Popped into Lachenhof on the way back and it was thigh deep.

There's another hill I visit that isn't too bad, old lifts but hardly anyone there and not much grooming. Great when it's snowed down to the valley as there's a good run through the trees.
post #25 of 27

Off piste in Europe

Back to the original poster; off-piste or out-of-bounds preparation in Europe varies immensely (from none whatsoever to "a fair bit when it really matters") - where do you plan to go? Europe gives you around a dozen different countries to ski in and each one does it differently - generally you take responsibility for yourself as soon as you step off the piste (groomers).

Your best bet is probably to head for one of the better-known (and therefore usually better equipped, etc.) freeride centres like Alagna, Chamonix, St.Anton or Verbier and seek out an official, qualified, guide to show you exactly what's what and where on the mountain.

Be aware that very little, if anything, is fenced off or signed once you're off-piste; if you want to ski over a cliff, it's up to you!
post #26 of 27

Lower the chances

An Austrian friend of mine told me that about 50 avalanche deaths occur each year in Europe. Skiing with a certified guide will help reduce the chances of being one of those statistics. Skiing with an old guide should be even better!
post #27 of 27
I think it's even more. There were years with 30-40 deaths in Austria only. I think around 20-30 is average for Austria. Can't be bothered now to dig out the old statistics.
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