Avalanche Accident Zürs

Big Avalanche in Hintere Rendl

First Avalanche Casualty of the Season

Unfortunately we saw the first avalanche accident of the season in Austria here in the Arlberg today, more precise in Zürs, on the off-piste ski route called “Fauler Stock” it’s heading from Madloch down to the Stierloch Creek.

The victims was an English family, a  51 year old dad with his two young twin teenage sons, aged 16 and their Ski Mountain Guide. The guide, dad and one of the 16 year old boys got taken by the avalanche, unfortunately the son did not survive.

Ski Route Madloch Fauler Stock

Here is a map of the area, with red is the offical ski routes, and the blue line is the way down to Fauler Stock.

The 16 year old twin brother, could only watch by, as his dad and brother got buried by the avalanche. The guide was very lucky, as he just got partly taken by the avalanche and could ski out of it, so he could come and help to free the dad.

Here you can read the press release from the local police.

Avalanche Airbag

According to the local police, both the dad and son was wearing an avalanche airbag and had time to release it, but still they were more or less completely buried in the avalanche. The dad got taken to the hospital in Feldkirch where he got treated for a broke arm and a leg.

Example of an avalanche airbag

Example of an inflated avalanche airbag, here the ABS Vario.

So this tells us, as discussed a lot lately on the internet, that wearing an avalanche airbag does not save you, it lowers your risk of not getting buried. What saves you is not getting taken by an avalanche at all, so always be aware of the surroundings and local avalanche situation whenever you are skiing off-piste.

Avalanche Level 1

Today is the first day where the avalanche danger level has been set to 1 from top to bottom, whereas the last couple of days it has been a 1 down low and a 2 up high, the upper limit has slowly gone up from 2000 meter on  Saturday to 2400 meter on Monday, and first today it was considered a 1 from the valley to the top. This was in Vorarlberg, in Tirol it has been a 1 since Friday.

Avalanche Danger Icon Level 1

This is how you can see when the avalanche danger level is 1

Read more about the avalanche danger levels here

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are  lots of hard pressed wind slaps out there, resting on a not so good surface of either cohesion less snow or a hard layer of snow, so the bonding between the layers are not good in all places.

We still need more detailed information, about what has actually released the avalanche and how big it was, the local Avalanche authorities in Vorarlberg, will normally investigate that within the next couple of days.

What to learn from this tragic accident is that, no matter what the avalanche danger level is, then always treat the off-piste with respect and know the local signs of avalanche danger. In this case they were skiing with a guide, and I don’t know enough to say anything particular. But it tells us, that we always has to take the risk into account, no matter how small it may be, there are always the slightest possibility of an accident, when you are skiing or boarding off-piste.

I will come back with more information once it gets public.

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