Avalanche Risk in the Alps

Snow, wind, temperatures rising, then slides. Three freeriders are killed in Val Veny near Courmayeur...

There were three fatalities in the Val Veny near Courmayeur, yesterday, where off piste groups comprising 18 mixed nationality skiers were involved.  The avalanche victims in the section of Plan de la Grabba, were Italian, Belgium and German. Another five freeriders were injured, with three still being treated in hospital.

In La Grave the lifts have closed for the second day, with high winds at the top. Yesterday the lifts did not open all day after the mountain guides returned from the commission run, which is carried out to determine conditions, reporting that one of the guides was caught in a big slab avalanche. He fortunately managed to trigger his airbag. The remaining guides above him were able to get to him and find his lost ski but not his poles.As one guide said afterawrds, that was a first in the history of the commission run.

In the ultimate freerider backcountry that is La Grave where there is no official avalanche control (as in blasting) it was a significant safety decision not  to open.

La Grave resident American mountain guide, Joe Vallone comments, 'Some of us actually celebrated and high fived this morning when our lift was closed for risk. That rarely happens, but today I felt an overwhelmingly good sigh of relief that the lift was closed. We are not out of the clear yet. Rapid temperature spike coming tomorrow after a very warm and sunny day today. I'm speculating that the amount of water and weight in the new storm and wind deposited snow will be trending in stability from currently poor to very poor by mid day tomorrow. Especially at the mid to lower elevations.'

New snow can be a Heuristic Trap, the fatal trap of Scarcity (read more here). Everyone gets so excited to be out there to make turns in the fresh powder. that there can be human error that creates an avalanche.