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Avalanche accident Schwarzhorn, Switzerland


"There were several indications that the downhill run we were about to take was unstable when we were going up the Schwarzhorn lift. There were a number of avalanches that must have come down in the last 12 hours.

As we got off the lift and skied over to I could feel a hollow nature to the snow. The others decided to head straight in and ski the first of the shoots. Me and 2 more slid down to the next shoot about 2m down. The sun was out and the solar radiation considerable but at this point me and one skier talked about how it did not feel good. But for some unknown reason we decided to carry on.

There were 2 tracks already in the shoot. As I skied in I saw a cut of a small wind lip, nothing big about 1 to 1.5 m square. Again this should have indicated not to carry on. As I skied the first section the snow felt stable and as I took a right turn I heard the snow moving around me.

At this point I pointed towards the wall of the gully and could not turn straight to try to get out of the avalanche. The next thing I know, I felt a blow on my back and fell face down into the snow. At that point I pulled my ABS when I felt like I was under the snow, but it was maybe only 30 cm covered, it's hard to say exactly. After the point of pulling the ABS® my skis came off and I also let go of my poles, I never ride with the instep loops. I now slid down the mountain on my front with my face upside down. I needed 100 m or 150 m from the top of the crest. Hard to tell what the difference in altitude was.

The run out had no terrain traps and it stated to bench out. I managed to get myself to my feet but was straggling to move in the debris as it was deep and soft the snow did not consolidate.

All this could have been avoided if I had listened to signs that jumped out at me. I got carried away and made an incredibly bad decision. I have a ABS®, not to be able to ride more dangerous tracks in unsafe conditions, but as a last resort. I have been riding off-piste for 10 years and this day has given me many lessons that I will take with me into the backcountry for the rest of my days. It is never a shame to turn back.

I will never be without a ABS® backpack!"


Photo: Tegan Mierle