Skylt med lavinfara Idre fjäll. Foto: Nisse Schmidt/TT
Signs warning of avalanches in the Hemavan/Tärnaby area. File photo: Nisse Schmidt/TT

Avalanche expert urges skiers to check forecasts

"Talk to ski patrollers about conditions"
3:26 min

Several ski resorts have issued avalanche warnings and three people have been caught in snowslides, a situation that can be avoided through proper risk management, says avalanche researcher Stefan Mårtensson.

Mårtensson, of the Luleå University of Technology, told Radio Sweden that skiers should check the website for updated information about avalanche forecasts. He added: "If you're going to a resort, you should talk to ski patrollers about avalanche conditions, especially if you're going backcountry skiing.”

The winter season is just starting and Swedish ski resorts are filling up as school children are currently on winter break.

In the past week, three people have gotten in trouble in two separate avalanches. One boy was caught in an avalanche in the Tandå valley in the popular ski resort of Sälen, news agency TT reported. He had gone skiing off-piste but was dug out and rescued and did not need to go to hospital.

It doesn't always end that well, though. According to Mårtensson, the average fatality rate in avalanches is roughly 20 to 25 percent. "One should keep in mind that avalanches are dangerous," said Mårtensson.

Last weekend, two men went missing during a large-scale avalanche in the Dalarna region. Both were buried under the snow, but one managed to get out and then rescued the other man.

According to Mårtensson, each winter brings new challenges and new conditions. Even if you are an experienced skier returning to old terrain, that is no guarantee for avoiding trouble.

“People tend to forget that in the place they’re going back to, all of the snow they skied on last year has melted and it’s a whole new playground in the mountains... That’s why people are getting caught early in the season because they haven’t been in the terrain for six months or a year.”

Mostly, those caught in avalanches have proper equipment and training, Mårtensson explained, and the rule of thumb for backcountry skiing or snowmobiling is never to expose more than one person at a time.

“If you’re skiing, your partners of friends should wait for you to ski the slope and when you are done and in a safe spot, then the next person can ski. Avalanche safety is very much about having good people around you who can help and assist you if you’re unlucky enough to get caught in an avalanche.”

Snowfall and wind increase the risk of avalanches and rescue personnel recommend that skiers notify ski patrollers or others before going backcountry skiing.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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