Randonee-avalanche safety

Ski touring also known as randonee or alpine touring, has gained popularity among thrill seekers and people that enjoy nature. While the untouched powder and beutifull scenery is tempting, it does not come without risks. Particularly the risk of avalanches. this article will rewiew the basics about avalanche safety.

DISCLAIMER: A lot of avalanche experts die in avalanches every year, this text is meant as basic knowledge, and you should absolutely take an avalanche course in your area.

Check avalanche forecasts and plan you trip accordingly. Terrain gentler than 30 degrees are generally safe, except in the most extreme conditions. There are different maps that show gradients. you can also check if a slope is 30 degrees with this simple trick. Take one pole plant it in the snow pointing straight up. take the other pole in a 90 degree angle towards the slope. if the tip of the pole touch the snow the agle is 30 degrees. The problem with this technique is that you are already potencially caught in avalanche terrain, so use this method with caution.

If there are recent avalanches in your area you should stay at home, or be in terrain gentler than 30 degrees. The best way to avoid avalanche terrain is good planning. Remember that it is possible to remote trigger avalanches in slopes above you, so keep a safe distance from steep hills. generally 3 times further away than the full height off the slope. And stay out of terrain traps.

There are 8 main danger signs that tells you the snowpack is avalanche prone.

Cracks shooting out infront of your skiis. this is a sign that there is a wind slab wich is not bound to the snowpack underneath, if these ever appear infront of your skiis, you should stay in mellow terrain. If you are in avalanche terrain when this happens you are in grave danger. Try to make your way out of the avalanche terrain the safest way possible. Avalanches can be remote triggered in these conditions.

Rumbles from the snow(also called “woumpf sounds), when you hear this sound you know the snow has a weak layer further down, and when the snow rumbles you should be very glad you are in mellow terrain, otherwise there would have been an avalanche.

Wind transported snow, This creates a slab of snow on top of already existing snow, and can create snowdepths much deeper than the rest of the terrain. This will put extra strain on already weaker layers below. and when the snow starts to slide there will be alot more snow in the avalanche. The windslabs are the most unstable when the wind is transporting snow and right afterwards the wind has stopped.

Rain. The top part of the snow will be filled with water, The extra weight will strain the snowpack, in addition the rain will melt the bonds in the snowlayer. this will additionally add to the avalanche danger.

Big temperature change. Big temperature change is generally when there is a 5 degree celsius difference in 3 hours or less. The change in temperature will change the tension in the upper layers of the snow. After the mild weather has started the snowpack will be more stable than before, but the first few hours are critical. The weak layers have to “melt” or collapse for the snow to be stable.

Large amounts of new snow. The fresh snow han not bound together with the old snow, the risk last for 2-3 days after the snowfall. It is generally said that 30 cm of new snow is the limit, but this greatly varies based on conditions, so be carefull.

Fresh avalanches. The most obvious sign there is. Fresh avalanches tell you that the snowpack is unstable and that avalanches are easy to trigger.

The best way to stay safe is to avoid getting caught in an avalanche altogether, but if you are ever caught, safety gear can save you.

Safety gear is important, the most important gear is a beacon, shovel and a probe. to utilise the gear the correct way it is important to carry out exercices on finding the beacon, probing for people who is digged down and digging out the buried skier. Executing these exercises is best done at an avalanche course in your local area with an experienced guide.

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