The Dangers of Skiing Off Piste In Europe

Henry

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In the OP video--where did he go after that? The rest of the run could be just as...unknown.

In Zell am See, Austria, a couple of years ago, is the first time I've seen mapped ungroomed runs. They had red diamond signs instead of the red circle signs on groomers. (Red for a steeper intermediate run.)

The top of a chairlift that ended on the ridge between Zermatt and Cervinia had very big serious warning signs about the big cliff right in front of the get-off. We had fun skiing the fluff just outside the ropes along the runs in the upper Cervinia area. The ropes mark the limit of the groomers. They aren't strict no-go, pull-pass zones like the ropes in North America resorts.
 
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Jacob

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In the OP video--where did he go after that? The rest of the run could be just as...unknown.
It looks to me like the exit is to the skier’s left from where he landed. But, I think I saw what could’ve been the top of another cliff down the fall line from there.

If I had to get out from there without having scoped out the area, I think I would traverse straight left. There might be a skiable line below the landing area, but I don’t think I’d take that risk unless I could see an easy escape route if it turned out there is a cliff there.
 

Nobody

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Some have very unrealistic expectations. Like just because you’re with a guide, everything will be powder.
Last time I skied the Vallée Blanche there were two guys from Pennsylvania in the group. Conditions on piste in the valley were New Jersey like. Terrible. Up high it was mostly dense wind packed. In the first 10 minutes of skiing after the hike in, these guys were frequently skiing way outside the guide’s path, and he was very pissed.
I went over to talk to them, and the first thing they said was, “When is he going to take us to the powder fields?” As if it were a farm tour. So we had to go over that they were skiing on a glacier, people fall through snow bridges all the time, and wandering on their own path with no knowledge is a bad idea.

They ended up adjusting, were nice guys and we went to dinner together.
Not only ppl from the USA have those unrealistic expectations. Nearly everyone expects that a guide is some kind of "truffles' dog" that can alwas take the tourists to the fabled powder laden field of joy. I had lovely adventures in the Dolomites , with the local guides, by simply setting my expectations to "let's have aa wonderful day skiing off-piste, no matter what the snow conditions will be". Otherwise, the day could be miserable.
I skied the Valleée Blanche as a kid in the late '70 and it took us three attempts before even reaching the top of the mountain, and even then , only to be told that due to the bad weather we would have to turn back and take the gondola down to Courmayeur (only the raddest of the raddest were skiing down the Italian side on the Mont Blanc back then)...the fact we (my mom and me, not the whole group) descended the Vallée Blanche anyway it's another story...
 

PowHog

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Skiing the Alps in general (Verbier in particular) and having skied stateside too the key difference is the one already stated. In Europe anything outside the groomed runs is considered off-piste and mostly without any marking for hazards. You see occasional poles with diamond shaped signs which mark an uncontrolled side or back country run but this is the exception. This means as soon as you venture from the groomed and marked trails you are entirely skiing at your very own risk. This is the price which comes along with this concept of choosing your own way down and not being strictly limited to bounds. We like it that way!

Despite this stop signs can be in place at the entrance of back country runs in case of risky conditions (avi danger). As with closed groomers you are officially not allowed to enter them. Still people ignore this since often they are put up and just left there for the entire season. However if caught by mountain patrol or law enforcers while trespassing you can be in for a really hefty fine.

And please don't attempt to sue the resorts if things go wrong away from the official marked runs so you either need to scope your routes precisely or sack up and hire a guide. In almost any major resorts ski schools run various groups consisting of advanced or expert skiers venturing off-piste most of the time. Just ask specifically for those, describe your level and they will match you up with suitable people, way cheaper than hiring an individual guide and a good way to start and make new ski buddies.
 
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fatbob

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Not only ppl from the USA have those unrealistic expectations. Nearly everyone expects that a guide is some kind of "truffles' dog" that can alwas take the tourists to the fabled powder laden field of joy..
The best guides are those that will tell you to save your money because they aren't going to find anything better than you can find yourself that day or that it's too risky for what you might want to do. Guided groups can and do get avalanched - I have friends who were in one such group where a member was paralyzed after being partially buried then hit by a secondary. They still ask themselves whether they should have challenged the guide before entering the zone.
 

Nobody

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The best guides are those that will tell you to save your money because they aren't going to find anything better than you can find yourself that day or that it's too risky for what you might want to do. Guided groups can and do get avalanched - I have friends who were in one such group where a member was paralyzed after being partially buried then hit by a secondary. They still ask themselves whether they should have challenged the guide before entering the zone.
Agree, the approach ought always to be "Live, to ski another day"
 

Tex

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Avalanches have always fascinated me. Always got warnings in my younger days for skiing crazy stuff, I'm probably lucky to be alive. Just saw this video, 1:12 into it he drops in and sets it off.....

 

Nobody

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It is so on this side of the Alps too, exacerbated due to the covid situation, too many have taken up to venture "off-piste" not only with skis and skins, but also with snowshoes and ski-doos-err snowmobiles. Without even the necessary basic understanding of what an un-controlled environment such as the high mountains, snow laden, means.
 
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PowHog

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Guided groups can and do get avalanched - I have friends who were in one such group where a member was paralyzed after being partially buried then hit by a secondary. They still ask themselves whether they should have challenged the guide before entering the zone.
No doubt there have been accidents even when guided and this is no life insurance. But still very most local guides have profound and actual knowledge about the not so obvious terrain and spots with potential avi hazards so more often than not it is money not spend in vain. But to each his/her own.
 

François Pugh

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As illustrated by the Jerry of the day.


As you can see, he’s not far from the lift and there are other tracks in that area, but there are no warnings above the cliff he flies off.

Gotta scope your line before you ski it, bro.
Doesn't look unintentional to me, but it does look like a "fail". IMHO if you don't make the landing and ski away, it's a fail.

Nevertheless, point taken. You should assess your line. |Even on a marked trail that you can easily access from the lift, it is a good idea to pre-run the course at a safe speed before you send it; you could be taken out by a wind ridge or a compression that wasn't obvious before you hit it at speed.

I recall scoping out a line I could see the top and bottom of quite well from the top and bottom, but couldn't get close to the middle of. It was particularly dangerous at times because there was often a cornice at the top that could suddenly fall down it. There was no cornice when I skied it, but there were a lot of snow-boulders to dodge at high speed about 2/3rds of the way down where it leveled off a bit.
 

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