Ski touring in addition to all the pleasures also offers dangers and risks. Avalanches are undoubtedly one of the most dangerous traps for a skier. When skiing, we are also exposed to additional dangers – the danger of falling and sliding on the slope. Slides and avalanches are certainly the two most common causes of fatal accidents in ski touring.
Falls and slides
The primary cause of any fall is most often the fault of the skier. This may be due to a lack of skiing technique and inadequate adjustment of speed to the given condition of the snow cover, slope and terrain configuration. All this can change over very short distances. On a well-kept ski slope and during variant skiing with cable cars, falls are usually harmless and often only brighten our day. Conversely, when touring, we need to know clearly at all times whether a fall is permissible or not.
In the section where, due to exposure or hard snow, we estimate that a possible fall can be dangerous, we reduce the speed and at the same time adjust the skiing technique.
On hard snow, slipping occurs most often. Therefore, we increase the load on the lower ski. If it still slips, we can usually get on the top ski. If this fails, we must first turn the body with our hands to get the skis under the body in the direction of the entrance. We bend the upper leg as much as possible and with the acquired space we enable the adjustment of the edge of the lower ski. This is followed by a stop or transition to side sliding.
When skiing in soft types of snow, we most often fall over the skis. Here the preparation is the opposite: we markedly increase the load on the upper ski. In case of loss of balance, try to get on an unloaded lower ski. Falls over skis are generally less dangerous than slips in the described conditions because we stop immediately in soft snow despite the fall.
Falls are used in non-hazardous circumstances to exercise and gain reflexes. Every fall is tried to be stopped systematically and as quickly as possible. On exposed slopes, we need to be absolutely sure that we will be able to prevent any falls. Otherwise, such a section can be overcome without downhill skiing.
The skiing pleasures associated with skiing in a deep cell are completely incomparable to gliding on other types of snow. Unfortunately, these pleasures are accompanied by the danger of triggering landslides, which skiers cannot completely avoid. The basis for reducing the risk of such accidents is full knowledge of the whole issue of triggering avalanches. This includes knowledge of avalanche protection methodology, precise preparation and planning of the ascent, and careful observation of the snow cover. However, caution should not be limited to ascent.
We need to pay even more attention to the planning and choice of the ski slope. Personal experience proves to be invaluable in assessing the risk of landslides. Most of the touring skiers who have been skiing in the mountains for several years have encountered an avalanche at least once. Most fortunately with smaller avalanches, which ended without fatal consequences.
Avalanches of dry sticky snow are the most dangerous for a skier. These are triggered by a crack above the skier when he is loaded with a blanket of snow, and they take him with them. Against avalanches, we do most with preventive action. The consequences of landslides are extremely devastating. Avalanche forecasts, which are given by meteorological or avalanche services all over Europe on a five-level European harmonized scale, are essential. At hazard ratings 5 and 4, skiing would be too challenging for nature, and at level 3, we can already ski with a lot of experience and caution.
The situation can be checked in the field with various tests, such as the Norwegian and Swiss tests. The touring skier must be equipped with complete safety equipment. Only in this way can he act effectively in the event of an accident and help the victim. The victim depends only on those present at the time of the accident. Action in addition to equipment requires the training of rescuers, in this case ourselves.