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Another small top up of snow over the weekend

Top tips for skiing on firm pistes & self-arresting

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 9 Jan 2017


Another small top up of snow over the weekend

That 1cm of fresh snow that we had last week was blown into gullies and onto strips in the lee and accumulated into 10 to 15cm's in places. 

It made an incredible difference, both visually and with a lovely soft feeling underfoot, and although it didn’t merit a ‘dump alert’ it was the best one centimetre of snow that we’ve enjoyed for a long time! And on Sunday morning we had another 1cm top-up and again enjoyed creamy strips thanks to the wind transporting the snow.

a skier in tignes

The resort has emptied out over the weekend and the piste skiing has been superb. I feel so sorry for the lower resorts as people aren’t working, holiday makers aren't skiing and it is rather desperate while we’re have a jolly good time up here!

The was a mountain bike race at La Daille on Sunday morning before the lifts opened to the public. There were 24 competitors and most of them clocked 120km/h or better!

Some snow is forecast off-and-on next week so we should see some improvement both on and off-piste. Have a fantastic week and look out for another update on Friday!

a skier off piste in val disere

Tips for skiing firm pistes & self-arresting

I mentioned in the last update about the dangers of sliding on steep slopes after a fall and that I'd write about how to stop yourself sliding, and now is as good of time as any because the very next day we had a fatal ‘sliding’ accident in Val d’Isere.

A skier dropped his pole off the chair near the summit of the Borsat lift, which is an extremely steep slope and at the moment it has been polished by the wind into an incredibly slippery surface. The poor man entered the slope, which is off-piste, hoping to retrieve his pole, fell and was killed sliding into the rocks below. Sliding accidents are a very serious and common reality in the mountains and I've given you some helpful tips below to help keep you safe.

There are a few things to be aware of on steep and firm slopes, both on and off-piste. Always survey what lies below and avoid any dangerous obstacles such as rocks, trees, cliffs, or lift pylons. Chose a line to ski with an obstacle-free ‘reception’ zone, so that if you do fall and slide you’ll have a safe landing area at the bottom. If you do find that you are exposed to danger below think about side-slipping instead of turning as it’s a much safer option.

If you do fall on a steep slope I suggest you try the Giles Green Self-Arrest Technique. I still teach and demonstrate this method to my clients in the spring and during periods of soufflé dur, such as we are experiencing at the moment, and it could save your life or help avoid a serious injury.

First, swing your feet around underneath you. This is much easier to do if you’re skiing under control and not attacking the mountain. If you go head-first it can be extremely difficult to get your feet back around. Next, you need to roll onto your stomach and do a push-up. If both skis have come off it is much easier as you'll be laying flat and when you push-up the tips of both boots will start to dig in. If one or both skis are still on you’ll be laying on your side on one leg. The leg that you’re laying on will become your uphill leg or ski, and the leg in the air will become your downhill leg or ski. It’s important to calmly but quickly work this out!

You must react immediately as you’ll pick up speed incredibly quickly. This method works brilliantly and I suggest you try it and practice on a piste with a safe run-out or ‘reception’ zone.( My colleague Jean Christophe Souillac has provided some 'self-arrest' photos that we took over twenty-years ago).

self arresting on skis technique

Stay safe out there!

Follow more from Wayne in his Daily Diary.

NB. Some of the areas Wayne has been skiing this week are off piste and not suitable to all skiers. Wayne has 35 years experience in these mountains. If you're considering going off piste you should always take a guide with you