After recent avalanches making headline news across Europe, should action be taken to prevent victims of these deadly and unpredictable natural phenomenons?
Everyone has an opinion on avalanches, although most agree they can be controlled to a certain extent, or at least contained. Resort "blasting", barriers, avalanche training, terrain testing and all the kit (transceiver, probe, shovel, ABS bag) all help, you could say the only possible fatality by avalanche is bad luck.
Those who do not understand winter sports or "mountain resort life" always look to criticise the safety of skiing and snowboarding when an avalanche occurs, with headlines such as "Skiing off-piste: why it's too dangerous this season" is this unnecessary scaremongering, wise words of warning, or simply "clickbate"?
Our opinion is simple....
1. If you do not have any avalanche safety kit or experience then remain within 5-10 meters of the piste markers, there is plenty of fun to be had on the edges of pistes, especially lower runs through trees and into resort which are generally the safest. Can be done safely alone in most conditions.
2. If you have basic avalanche training and kit (transceiver, probe and shovel) you should only be skiing/boarding the well known or marked off-piste, this is generally just an alternative route to the piste and easily accessible, used by many and well "blasted" by the resort. Never go beyond sight of a piste without someone else capable of avalanche rescue.
3. If you have all the kit and training, know the area extremely well and are with an experienced group this is your best chance for real backcountry fresh tracks.
4. If unsure or lacking confidence/ability always pay for a guide, they are often expensive but can provide you with valuable advise and confidence to really progress your off-piste skiing safely.
With all of these scenarios a large amount of common sense and a pinch of luck, or bad luck comes into play. Every run/face is different with terrain traps and varying conditions so be sensible.
In summary, No, large scale action should not be taken. We cannot fit everyone with electric dog collars to prevent them from straying off the pistes, or build walls (we know where that leads). There simply needs to be more awareness of how to deal with the danger whilst still enjoying yourself. Off-piste skiing/boarding is the best feeling in the world and everyone should experience it, there just needs to be considerable caution and self restriction.