Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
Andrew and Polly McLean
Rando racing couple Andrew and Polly Mclean were at Cuneo, Italy for the World Championships. Polly even witnessed the avalanche:
Polly: ” I was actually skinning up and the avalanche blew right by me with other competitors in it. It didn’t look very deep when it went by, but of course things are very different at the bottom. In the end luckily no one was hurt badly. There were a few missing skis and a lot of shaken people. It was not the kind of excitement we were looking for and a good reminder to reassess one’s course, depending on the conditions!
Andrew: “The Euro ski scene was kind of an eye opener. I’d skied there quite a bit, but never really interacted with so many people as I did on this trip. The resorts are huge, wide open and do almost no control work by US standards. Add to that the mentality that avalanches are seen as an unavoidable act of God, and you begin to see why so many people die over there. They also rely heavily on helicopter rescues for anything from blisters to burials.
We stayed with a friend who was a heli pilot on a day when three people were killed. The fourth person had a beacon, but instead of searching, he called the helicopter which arrived twelve minutes after the slide occurred (still, far too late) and located the bodies. The helis have beacons with amplifiers in them that the pilots can listen to, so they fly over the debris pile, then throw out markers when they get a signal, then drop people off to start digging. Another person died within 30 meters of the triple fatality just a few days later, and on one day there were ten avalanche accidents in Switzerland alone!
|Photo above shows $1,200 carbon fiber boots and custom made heel pieces used by Stephan Brosse, one of the fastest guys alive. In the vertical race, the winner did 1,000 meters in 39 minutes!
The weight limit is 1,200 grams for a ski and binding for the men and 1,000 grams for women. Men’s skis have to be 160cm and the women’s are 150’s. If they come in underweight, they tape coins to the tails such that the tip rotates up when they lift it for a kick turn. There is currently no weight limit on the boots — hence the innovation.