Clear blue sky, crispy crystal snow, fresh air and lots of fun, all these make skiing a highly enjoyable and appreciated sport, that attracts thousands of tourists on the mountain slopes every year. Yet, some of them are looking not just for fun, but for adventure. These are the people who choose off-piste skiing, who challenge the mountain in a race full of adrenaline, running the risk of provoking an avalanche for the sake of enjoying a descent on an untouched slope. These are the risk takers that throw caution to the wind in favour of a good time, and many of them choose the infamous La Grave skiing area, situated in the Alps.
If you want to go skiing in La Grave, you’d better think twice for the sake of your own safety and wellbeing. You could be there all alone, with nothing but your skies and backpack, in the middle of a white ocean, and your life depends on all your skiing knowledge and experience, which in some cases, can be less than you think. The highest risk to produce an avalanche is when there are several layers of snow, some older than the others, with different levels of density. In such a case, if you change direction suddenly, you may cut the most recent layer of snow with your skis, and thus dislocate it. Consequently, never cross a slope from one side to the other, because you may dislocate disaster. Or when skiing at high speed on slopes with fresh snow, you can raise a powder snow avalanche that makes air unbreathable because of the fine snow crystals that fill the atmosphere. Sometimes a few simple precautions like these can save your life.
In order to feel safer on your off-piste skiing expedition, there are a few things that you need to know. Always check on the snow conditions beforehand. Go online, and make sure you look at a report for La Grave, which should be easy enough to find. Has it recently snowed? What is the risk of avalanche in the area? What was the local weather like in the last days? Get information on how warm the weather can get at noon for instance. Make sure there haven’t been strong winds that might have affected the snow stability on the slope where you want to go skiing. Open your eyes for cornices and cracks and listen to possible sounds of the snow mass whilst your out there. If you remain alert, you’ll stand a better chance of avoiding disaster.
Avoid noise in areas with high avalanche risk. When trying to communicate with other members of your group, never shout if you’re far from them, because sound vibrations can cause inner breaks in the snow mass if already unstable. Make sure your transceivers are fully charged so that you may ask for help if in need. And last, but not least, wear colourful skiing clothes, avoid white, silver or gray equipment, that make you almost invisible by lack of contrast. Reds, or Oranges are probably the best colours to opt for, to give that contrast that could be life saving. Thus you’ll be more easily detectable on the slope, and in case you’re in an emergency situation, rescue teams can find you more quickly. You’ll be a speck of colour in the silver vastness of snow, identifiable from miles away to aid your rescue, and potentially save your life.