Bitter Sweet Snow

So after spending a whole winter wishing it would snow, then I get to go away for work for 1 week. Naturally it snowed while I was gone. But now that I am back it continues to snow and snow and snow and the lifts are all shut … level 5 avalanche warnings. The road from our house to Chamonix is shut at Les Gaillands because of avalanche risk so we have to take the long way around – the first time I remember them doing this for several years. The Col de Montet (between Argentiere and Vallorcine) is also shut.

This year, so far around 44 people have died in the alps in avalanches (last year 28). The new trend is to ski off piste, and a lot of people don’t know about the safety. That is what we usually tell ourselves. But this year, a number of victims have been mountain guides or professionals who were well prepared, knew all the rules and still got caught out. One group that was guided where several died was avalanched by a group of snowboarders above them, who they noticed and the guide even said to watch out. Then the avalanche started, and he was killed (survivors are attempting to have legal action brought against the snow boarders). Several accidents have been near enough to controlled pistes that people hardly think of it as ‘off piste’, but nonetheless they died. One guy was hurt very badly in an area where I sometimes go, in Vallorcine in the trees behind Le Tour – he is meant to be paralyzed from the waist down now though I haven’t heard updates in awhile. I find the website usually has the best updates on this kind of stuff – the local papers report only on deaths in their exact area and little is done to publicize this kind of thing (bad for tourism) but finally the French police are warning people this weekend to stay out of the mountains….

On the other hand, I can’t wait until it stops snowing so that I can get out and ski in this lovely dump – the off piste will be finally in great shape after the storm ends (earlier this season there was not a time where you could ski it without constantly looking out for rocks). But I would like to wait a few days until the snow settles. It will be skied out by then, I am sure, but on the other hand, at least I won’t become a statistic (I hope).


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