Being avalanche-ready

Avalanche kitI come from Australia. We don’t really do avalanches in Australian ski resorts. There was a landslide at Thredbo back in 1997 which killed seventeen people, but that was caused by a faulty water pipe rather than any natural catalyst. Bluntly, I knew nothing about avalanches before I moved to France. I now do. I know how to use my avalanche transceiver, and I have a probe and a shovel. I’m still no expert, but I at least feel prepared.

So on the weekend, I was surprised to see a man prepared in a different way. He and his two friends were off to an off-piste area called Bellachat. It is not a secured area (that is, mountain staff don’t let off avalanche bombs there so the snow can be less stable). The man unzipped his jacket and revealed a transceiver to all of us in the telecabine (aka bubble or gondola). He had a large back pack with plenty of room for a shovel. However, he plucked out something different — an eight-pack of Jagermeister minis, offering them to his two friends. He described the minis as not very alcoholic and a good way to start the day. After downing their minis, he brought out the assortment of mini chocolate blocks. He then pulled out some items for later: a ginger cake; three glass jars of spreads; a German leberwurst, which he swung around his head for good measure; and some sort of chocolate fudge substance. These, he said, were his survival requirements for their day off-piste. His friends giggled. His backpack was so full of breakable glass items that there was no room for a shovel or probe.

Anyway, I doubt they would have been much use to him: his mates were unequipped and I’m guessing he didn’t actually know how to use his transceiver because he turned to his mates and said: “Are the lights flashing on this thing? Yes? Excellent. I’d be annoyed if I hired it with a flat battery.”


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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