Wednesday, 4 January 2012
About ten days ago Chamonix reached an interesting point when we equalled the amount of snow that had fallen last season. Since then we've had over a meter more. The forecast for tomorrow is for another 70cm above 2000m !
So the question has to be asked - will this be a record breaking snow year ? And more importantly, will there be an increase in avalanche deaths ? So far, deaths have thankfully been below the average expected, but in my opinion that has been because the snowfall has been so huge that the lifts have been shut on the most risky days. It is a sad fact, but it seems that in Chamonix the best way to control people is to close the lifts - very few people seem willing or able to make sensible decisions on avalanche risk.
Bookings on our Avalanche Safety Training Courses have been interesting too. Each time we've had Cat 5 conditions we have seen a spike in bookings. Yet Cat 5 is very rare; almost unheard of in a normal season. Would it surprise you if I said that 34% of avalanche accidents actually occur on Cat 2 days ? That is not a mis print - Cat 2 ! Yet people only seem to think of the danger when the lifts are closed and it's Category 5.
On a positive note, so far this season we have had 100% customer satisfaction on our courses. We seem to have hit the right balance between the geeky snow science and the great off-piste. But on a serious point, what we are trying to promote here is that you don't need to be a snow crystal nerd to stay alive in the off-piste! You need to take readily available Avalanche Forecasts, plan your day, and take heed of what you see during your day. Just sticking to a few simple procedures will reduce your exposure to risk enormously. That is what we are promoting at Avalanche Academy.
Enough of my ramblings. Here's to a great snow season, safe skiing everywhere, and a fantastic 2012.