It may sound alarmist but this is the most important text in this magazine. It can sound a bit scary, but with a healthy dose of common sense, mixed with a good knowledge of snow and mountain craft, you will be able to take the decisions that will give you the best skiing and get you back for the apres ski safe and sound.
Through reading this you will by no means have all the necessary knowledge, but it’s a good reminder on what to watch out for, and it will give you a base from where to start.
Avalanches are of course the biggest risk for all powder skiers. The sad thing is that you can never predict exactly when, or where, one will be triggered. However, the good thing is that you can read mother nature’s signs and know when to be extra vigilant: new snow, wind and temperature changes are the three biggest factors to take into consideration. When two or three of them are combined, you should be extra- extra careful. Also remember that if you trigger an avalanche, you might be able to ride out of it, but there may be others on the slope who will be affected by your decisions.
Glaciers represent another hazard where knowledge is crucial. In Engelberg the most obvious glacier to note is located right under the Titlis Rotair lift, and covers big parts of the Steinberg run. Even though skiing around the blue ice can be mesmerising remember that crevasses are everywhere, even next to powder tracks. Hire a guide, or make sure you ski with someone who knows the area, to ensure that you ski on the most stable snow and not over weak snow bridges.
Unintended exposure is not always easy to spot from the top of a run. As such it’s always really important to plan a run before you drop in. Sadly it’s quite common to see people stranded on top of a cliff they didn’t want to jump, just because they followed someone else’s tracks. Following tracks may not always be bad, if you know where you are that is. But if you’re not aware of where the tracks end, you didn’t plan your run well enough. In short: always make sure you know where you are, and what’s below you.
The right equipment for the job is also crucial. Take a look at the picture above and ensure your backpack contains it all. In the first instance the most important thing is to avoid avalanches, but if you have a situation where someone is buried, it’s extremely important to know your transceiver extremely well. Luckily there is a training centre located on Tru?bsee, where you can practice and build your trans- ceiver skills. Mountain guides and professional skiers do this many times every winter and you should too. Please remember: No equipment can replace knowledge. Use all the safety gear possible, but ski like you didn’t have any.
Last, but not least: Read the avalanche report. You can see them close to many lifts on the mountain or read them online at www.slf.ch. A new one is released at 8 o’clock every morning. If you don’t understand it, ask someone who does.
To bring to the mountain:
TRANSCIEVER / SHOVEL / Probe / food / WATER / FIRST AID KID / PHONE / extra clothes / GLOVES / GOGGLES / MULTI tool / CLIMBING SKINS
Wear the transciever close to your body, never in the backpack, and always turned on. Basic climbing equipment and a head lamp can also come in handy on more serious missions.