If you look up in a thesaurus on line, the definition of "considerable" is abundant or large. So 3 out of 5 on the European Avalanche Scale is an abundant or large risk. To quote the EAS specifically: Avalanches may be triggered on many slopes even if only light ( a single skier or snowboarder) loads are applied. On some slopes, medium or even fairly large spontaneous avalanches may occur.
So what does that mean in practice today at Le Tour, where a 25 year old was dug out very dead yesterday? Crown walls on all aspects from west to east through north, especially on north facing slopes, whoomphing on several places above 2000m, small skier triggered slabs all over the resort off piste. That's what considerable means: pretty damn scary. And yet there are still folk passing the fences on the Belle Place piste which say "closed due to avalanche risk" with no rucksacks, and therefore no shovels or probes at the very least and in all probability zero awareness.
It is DANGEROUS out there - a thin early season snow pack with depth hoar forming due to the cold snap we've just had, and now a bucket load of snow arriving on strong south westerly winds. Nature couldn't give bigger billboards if she tried.
OK - rant over. Go ski low in the trees and have fun, folks. I did today, and it was awesome.
It's official - the silly season has kicked off. I was up on Le Tour today in deteriorating weather, with a category 3 avalanche forecast above 2000m on all aspects. It had put down about 25 to 35cm last night and there was a stiff southwesterly wind moving alot of snow about.
At about 11am we had 3 helicopters head towards the Vallorcine side in quick succession. When we got up to the Tete de Balme, the piste was closed, so I asked the pisteurs if there had been an avalanche. It turns out there was one person buried with no transceiver at the top of the Combe des Norvegiennes, known by locally based British guides as the Scandy Trap, after a major incident in 2001. I was about to head off with a team of guides and instructors to help with the probe line when the news came through that the dogs had found someone, but no news as yet as to whether it's a live one or not. After an hour under heavy wind blown snow, the chances aren't great. Hopefully we'll get news in the paper tomorrow morning.
Take it easy out there, people...
The Chamonix lift system is almost 100% open as of this weekend. Despite the "doom and gloom" reports, the snow cover has been reasonable, and powder skiing is certainly very feasible above 2000m. Coverage is a bit random, but in general north facing aspects have a little more depth. The wind has been moving snow around a fair amount, so it's drifted in some unusual places. I've been checking out Courmayeur and Le Tour over the past few days and had some good turns.
The top of the Grands Montets is yet to open, and reports from touring parties indicate some cover but also some sizeable holes on the Argentiere side. We have two weather fronts due this week, so it should be a white Christmas in Chamonix. Ho ho ho!