With lots of snow falling recently in Verbier, it’s looking like this season is set to be a great one after a slightly slower start in December. However, although the snow is very welcome after the initial drought at the start of the season, with the powder comes a new responsibility.
Fresh snow encourages many people to venture off the beaten track, but it is important to remember that when you leave the pistes you are entering an uncontrolled area, and your safety becomes very much your responsibility.
How do we decide if it is safe to ski? This is the big question we should all ask ourselves when skiing off-piste. Remember, 90% of all avalanches are set off by the skier themselves!
Given the current snow conditions in Verbier there is high risk at the moment associated with skiing off-piste. Throughout the Alps we have already seen some very dangerous conditions over the last couple of weeks, and unfortunately as a result of this, recent reports of people being caught in avalanches in France and Switzerland and not surviving.
On the slf.ch website (a very useful site for looking at the avalanche danger, snowpack and weather in your region), the avalanche risk in Verbier is reported to be 4 with a high risk on all slopes on all aspects above 2.200m (Ruinette lift station is 2.200m). This danger is a consequence of all the fresh snow that has recently fallen, strong winds and weak layers within the snowpack. These weak layers and new snow mean that natural avalanches are possible, and when they start they are likely to penetrate down to the ground and reach a dangerously large size. These avalanches can currently be easily released by a single skier, so great caution is advised.
How to check the avalanche risk?
The avalanche risk can be checked online at www.slf.ch or every day at the Le Chable and Ruinettes lift station. White risk also has an app which is updated each day at 8am.
Freeride Verbier (Altitude Ski School’s Off-Piste Team) specialises in off-piste lessons for beginner and intermediate skiers looking to improve and explore Verbier.