Planning a tour involves many factors that need to be taken into account. For this reason you should allow yourself enough time and inform yourself sufficiently. A good preparation not only increases safety but also pleasure.
FACTORS FOR RELIABLE TOUR PLANNING
The avalanche risk for safe tour planning depends on the weather and avalanche conditions, the terrain and your own behaviour. With the basic knowledge of the following factors, even simple tours can be planned and the behaviour during a tour can be adapted to the current avalanche situation
The current avalanche danger can be taken daily from the avalanche situation report. The avalanche danger is assigned to one of the five avalanche danger levels and in addition critical parts of the terrain are described in the report. The avalanche situation report serves as a basis for any planning and execution of a tour. In addition to this, your own observations and assessments should also be taken into account when planning.
The best indication of avalanche danger is fresh avalanches. To form avalanches, breaks in the snowpack are required. The formation of these breaks can sometimes even be heard or seen. These danger warnings are called alarm signals and show if the conditions for avalanches are given. However, despite the absence of alarm signals, there can be a danger of avalanches.
The weather influences the development of the avalanche danger considerably. Weather conditions such as fresh snow and visibility are important key factors in assessing the avalanche risk.
- Rain and fresh snow always increase the danger of avalanches
- The first beautiful day after snowfall counts as extremely dangerous
- New drift snow deposits are considered to be particularly easy to trigger
- Extreme temperature increases and strong solar radiation increase the danger of avalanches
- Poor visibility (fog) makes assessment difficult
In principle, an avalanche is possible from a slope inclination of 30 degrees. The steeper the slope, the more dangerous it is. The risk can be estimated by considering the slope steepness in combination with the avalanche danger level.
Exposure & Altitude
Avalanche slopes are often characterized by shade, a lot of drifting snow and proximity to the ridge. Above the forest line, conditions become much more critical due to wind force, decreasing temperature and increasing precipitation. The avalanche situation report lists the current terrain that is particularly affected.
In most cases, an avalanche burial is not accidental. Spontaneous avalanches (without human intervention) are only responsible for just under five percent of burials. The own behaviour as well as the behaviour of the accompanying persons have a considerable influence on the risk.
The more participants, the greater the risk of triggering an avalanche.
- Greater load on the snowpack
- Greater probability of triggering (more tracks on the descent)
- Slower decision-making and implementation of measures
- More difficult communication
- Riskier behaviour due to false sense of security
Each group member must be included in the route planning. The tour should be specifically tailored to the needs and abilities of the group. So remember: a group is only as good as its weakest member. In addition, a clear allocation of roles should be made in order to speed up decision-making processes.
Good equipment alone does not prevent an avalanche accident, but the chances of survival in the event of a burial can be extremely increased. Rescue in an avalanche accident is a race against time, with comrades rescue being of great importance.
The following equipment is part of the
standard emergency equipment:
avalanche transceiver / avalanche shovel / avalanche probe
In addition, an avalanche airbag must never be missing, as it can directly prevent burial in the best case. Depending on the situation, the emergency equipment should be supplemented.
The risk of an avalanche detection can be reduced with the following behavioural measures:
- Optimal trace plant
- Utilization of convex (back-shaped) terrain
- Avoidance of very steep slopes and fresh snow accumulation
- Staying in the green zone of CRM
- Maintaining distances on steep slopes and especially at key points
- Stopping and pausing only on "safe islands"
PLANNING OF THE SKI TOUR
As soon as the right tour has been selected with the help of the Internet, maps, literature and experts, the concrete planning begins. In principle, the tour planning takes place the evening before the tour. The preparation phase is largely based on assumptions and external information, so the expected conditions must always be compared with the actual conditions on site and possible adjustments made. The following steps should be taken into account when planning.
The size of the group has a great influence on the selection and preparation of a ski tour. If a tour is planned with several people, they must be involved in the planning. Is the selected tour and planning okay for all participants? Are the participants up to the size of the tour? Does everyone know what to expect on the tour? It is also helpful to appoint someone to take responsibility for the planning and on site.
WEATHER FORECAST & AVALANCHE DANGER
The current weather is an elementary part of every tour planning. The weather report not only provides information about the expected operations, but also about the equipment required. Depending on the weather forecast, the base, mid and outer layer should be adjusted. However, all information such as temperature, snow, wind, precipitation or visibility on site must be compared with the actual conditions. Also the avalanche situation report should be read before every tour to be informed about possible dangers. It serves as a basis for the snow and avalanche situation and is essential for planning.
TOPOGRAPHIC MAP MATERIAL
In digital maps the tours are often shown as tracks. With the help of contour lines, the first signs of terrain shapes and steepness can be recognized. Topographical maps have the entire route network as well as numerous routes to provide a good overview, but also to select alternatives if necessary. Symbols, hatchings and reliefs help to read the map. Particularly important are the key points, which are often explained in detail in the description. Key passages are areas with increased avalanche danger, danger of falling, crevasse fall in poor visibility or places where technical difficulties could occur. It is helpful to mark these key points on the map in order to find them again in the terrain. Path-time diagrams or distance-altimeter diagrams also help to visualize a route, so you are even better prepared for the tour and know what to expect.
PATH TIME CALCULATION
For tours in the mountains, the calculation of the travel time tends to be more complicated, especially in late winter when temperatures can change throughout the day and therefore the conditions vary greatly. In general, a time of one hour is calculated for the ascent of 300 meters in altitude or four kilometers. Due to a lot of snow in high winter or icy conditions in spring, there can be strong deviations. For this reason, the calculation should be supplemented with qualified experience reports such as tour descriptions. The same applies to the departure. In principle, a third of the ascent time is charged for the descent.
However, it should always be noted that any information on the tour is only a guideline. They serve as orientation, but in the end you have to evaluate independently what is feasible. The own assessment of competence and fitness of both, one person and all group members is therefore decisive. Also during the tour one should not overlook the time. Therefore, take a look at the clock from time to time to see if the time schedule runs out. Nevertheless, breaks should not be cancelled, they serve to maintain concentration and performance. When calculating the time, you should also consider possible material changes such as furring up and down and the use of crampons. For technically demanding passages, it is helpful to plan for time cushions.
Nobody wants to expect the worst, but you should always keep the possibility of an avalanche in mind. For this reason, everyone in the group should know the correct behaviour in the mountains and in case of an avalanche.
Those who start early should pack their backpack for the ski tour the evening before. So there is enough time to check the necessary equipment and you can enjoy your breakfast in the morning in peace and quiet before going up the mountain. With the help of ABS A.WAY the tour planning becomes even easier. The new Beacon technology in combination with the ABS app not only helps you plan your perfect tour, but also shows you if your equipment is complete. So there is nothing left in the eye of the perfect ski tour!