Staying safe when skiing or snowboarding in the mountains is crucial – an important part of that is being aware of the risk of avalanche where you are, being prepared when heading off piste, and knowing what to do should an avalanche happen.
The Telegraph Ski & Snowboard has teamed up with Henry Schneiwind from Henry’s Avalanche Talk (HAT), to provide up-to-date avalanche safety reports from the Savoie region of the French Alps, which includes popular resorts such as Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires in the Trois Vallées as well as Val d’Isère, Tignes, La Plagne, Les Arcs, La Rosière and La Tania.
What is the current avalanche risk in the Northern French Alps/Savoie?
The avalanche risk is currently between a low 1/5 to a moderate 2/5.
In terms of avalanche risk, there’s currently an extremely minimal risk to off-piste skiers and boarders, mainly from rare release of glide cracks.
What does this mean for off-piste skiers and snowboarders?
There is currently minimal avalanche danger. That isn’t to say ‘none’ – even a small avalanche on a steep slope above a cliff could have disastrous consequences. The main risk to the off-piste skier at the moment is one of losing control, falling, and sustaining a sliding accident on steep, hard icy snow.
Where is most at risk at the moment?
The highest risk to skiers and snowboarders is, as always, on steep slopes exposed to terrain traps. This is particularly the case now, with a lot of hardened or crusted snow on steep slopes above cliffs and rocks.
Stay in control when traversing or skiing down, to avoid going for a long, potentially very dangerous slide. Use ski crampons when walking up on icy traverses.
There’s been very little glide crack avalanche activity over the last few days. But still keep an eye on these cracks and don’t hang around under them for long, or tour up underneath them. If anywhere receives a substantial amount of fresh snow (20 cm or more) that risk will increase in the short-term.
How does the forecast look for the coming week?
High pressure is still in charge, so the snowfall this weekend will be minimal. There are signs that snow may appear after January 25, but it will be patchy until the high pressure completely collapses.
Friday January 17
Snowfall in the afternoon and especially in the evening. Beautiful at daybreak becoming cloudy from the west in the morning. The precipitation is highest in the evening, it continues the following night slowly becoming weaker.
Saturday January 18
Some snow at dawn then the clouds dissipate throughout the day. Wind generally weak outside the ridges and peaks.
Sunday January 19
Persistent low clouds over the west, under around 1,500m . This sea of clouds tears apart during the afternoon only.
Monday January 20
Variable weather in Haute-Maurienne and Haute-Tarentaise as weather blocked by clouds overflowing from Italy bringing some snowflakes. Less and less cloudy going towards the North-West of the region.
Tuesday January 21
A beautiful day, largely sunny after dissipation of grey morning weather.
Wednesday January 22
Beautiful, mild and always sunny, above the probable morning greyness; possible sea of clouds at night.
Thursday January 23
Beautiful and mild.
Tip of the week
If we get 10cm or more new snow, then be very wary of steep, shady northeast, north and northwest slopes. The frissette (gobelet, facets) will be underneath and the slope could slide away from underneath you. If there is more 20cm or fallen or windblown snow that it could avalanche and bury you.
Make the best of the stable snowpack and dry weather to get out for a bit of ski touring. Even if there’s no powder snow out there, there’s always a good adventure to be had, and using touring skis and skins gives us a lot more flexibility with areas of the mountain we can reach.