Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Avalanche in Tignes

UPDATE: The reality is that two people were in the avalanche – both aged around 20 and with the UCPA. Both were recovered alive – the young man revived after being given oxygen and the young woman had a heart attack but was resuscitated and is in a serious condition. (Unfortunately Chloé died later in the week in hospital)

(Original account…) Within minutes of the opening of the Toviere lifts today there was a disaster. The details still need to be confirmed but it seems like three girls, all trainee French ski instructors, set off on the very steep and unopened “Grizzly” piste right at the top of the lift. This piste is never groomed when it is open due to being far too steep (like a couloir) and today it was obviously very dangerously loaded with fresh snow. Most astonishingly the girls had no avalanche safety equipment at all. One girl was recovered but already dead having suffered heart failure from suffocation – but the other two could not be found even with hundreds of people (there were as many people again probing behind where this photo was taken). Strangely enough there was no village siren to announce the disaster. We just met an EV2 instructor in the lift and he told us what was going on – so we went straight over to help. The search was very well organised and it was very surprising and upsetting that the missing two couldn’t be found.

Once the sweep was fully completed there was nothing left to do but for everyone to leave and climb back up the mountain to the open ski runs.

The Skiing

Haluk skied much better today right from the start – getting the skis to remain downhill, pivot and stop rotating. He was basically “fall line” skiing instead of his usual traverse at the end of the turn. That worked well while we were in good snow – but once the conditions were a bit more challenging it fell apart to some extent. I also spotted near the end of the day that he was statically blocking his pelvis facing downhill even in rounder turns in an a way that was inhibiting dynamics – so that needs to be watched for.

We managed a fair bit of off-piste on moderate gradients – nothing over 25° – where avalanche risk was minimal. The visibility was terrible and there were a few surprises. Twice I hit  high vertical banks of snow that had been totally invisible to me – the first pitching me backwards and the second straight over the front of the skis. That only seemed to loosen me up and make me want more – so it was good fun.

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