Avalanche accident Schwarzhorn, Switzerland

17 Feb 2012

There were multiple signs that the face / shoot we were going to ski was unstable as we came up the Schwarzhorn lift. A number of slides were visible which 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 was pointing to the wall of the shoot and could not turn to point straight to try to go out of the slide. Then the next thing I know I felt a hit on the back and was face down into the snow. At this point I pulled my ABS as I felt I was under the snow but this might have only been 30cm covering, it’s hard to say exactly. After the point of pulling the ABS my skis released (I skied with a din of 8 or 9 max and I am 70kg) and I also let go off my poles, I never ski with the rist loops. I was now sliding on my front facing down the hill head first. It took me 100m or 150m from the point of the crown. Hard to say what the elevation drop 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 where staring me in the face. I got cared away and made a incredibly bad call. I have an ABS not to be able to ski more dangerous lines of unsafe conditions, but as a last resort.  I have been skiing off pists for 10 years and that day has given me a lot of lessons I will carry with me into the backcountry for the rest of my days. There is never any shame in turning back.

I will never go to ride without an ABS!
 
M.G.