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Avalanche fatality on Col de la Loze above La Tania

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Confirmation of tragic news of a fatality off piste near the Dou Des Lanches chair reached us on Saturday afternoon.

As usual in these events lots of conflicting information comes out as everyone is desperate for information – as far as we can tell the area the avalanche started is marked in red above from a Summer photo of the whole area to give perspective (that’s the Bouc Blanc chair in the foreground and the whole of the Dou des Lanches chair can be seen). It’s a lot further over and away from the piste than many realise.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the French guy from Le Praz who was known to some people in La Tania.

No one else was involved in the incident in an area that had been skied previously on the same day, a British skier was first on the scene attempting first aid according to reports. High winds and heavy snow may well have changed conditions during the day, the photo below of the Roc Tania mountain restaurant at the top of the Dou des Lanches chair shows the massive drifts there on Sunday morning.

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Further details from various press sources say a cornice broke away and triggered the avalanche 50m wide and 300m long with the resultant debris some 4m deep. The skier was swept down some distance and over a rocky outcrop. The Off Piste Avalanche Risk was posted at 4 out of 5 (HIGH RISK) with the Loze area summit posted at 4 on Friday too, while the Saulire summit area was set at 3 – not very often when they are different but highlighting how areas can change with weather, altitude, aspect etc.

Pics below show the release points (top left) and rescue teams at work (bottom right)
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A close up of the avalanche release point below
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Whilst several Gazex machines are in place around this area and Pisteurs make every effort to secure this area to ensure that pistes are protected it is off piste and can be dangerous when conditions dictate. Photos from a big slide here in April 2016 – but to skiers right of the chair with another slide underneath and to the left. There’s some more on the history of the “Gazex” runs on the La Tania Wikipedia page.

Pic below of the slide (extreme left) in April 2006 and the area from this weekend in red
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While many are quick to judge and reports that the victim was skiing alone without avalanche transceiver equipment have emerged (although by all accounts the victim wasn’t buried so that wouldn’t have helped) it’s education, knowledge, experience and awareness that decision making is based upon. Mistakes will happen, but let’s all try to learn & think to minimise them.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of holiday skiers can rest assured that pistes are safe from avalanches. An incredible amount of work and resources are put in by the Ski Area management companies to protect the ski runs with pistes & lifts closed if unsafe. It is extremely rare for any avalanches to ever reach an open, marked ski run at any major ski resort.

 

Further reports linked below:
Henry’s Avalanche Talk

PisteHors.com

France 3

Le Dauphine

Thanks to Matt Kr from Bozel and Les SKIS EN CROIX (association du service des pistes de Meribel) for the photos.

 

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