Fieberbrunn Lawine

Lawine means avalanche in German.

Week ago me and Jouni were skiing Fieberbrunn. Sun was shining and there was a new 10 to 30 cm layer of new snow. We had read about recent avalanche incidents like 1 and read the Tirol avalanche bulletins through out the week. Off piste areas right next to the lifts looked tempting so we headed for the obvious easy access areas which already had plenty of tracks. We had not been in Fieberbrunn before so the terrain was new to us.

On the second run we traversed skiers right from the south facing lifts and skied a tracked line down to a gully riding the ridge which I had previously spotted as a nice looking line. There were tracks on the skiers right side of the area and a traverse path back to the lifts. While skiing I noticed warning signs on skiers left but continued skiing next to other tracks on the ridge. Then something happened.

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From the picture:

  1. . my position when I noticed a dust cloud coming from the gully next to us
  2. . Jouni's position when he noticed snow sliding down
  3. . Jouni's position where he stopped and saw the avalanche run down to the gully
  4. . my position where I stopped and saw snow flowing down the gully and coming to a stop
  5. . my position after me, Jouni and a bunch of other skiers on the ridge finally figured out what to do, it took a few minutes after the initial shock, here I could have visual on Jouni when he enters the avalanche area for beacon search
  6. . Jouni entered the steep section with his beacon on and came safely down to the debris, and started a beacon search. Jouni and me had walkietalkies to communicate with.

At the same all of us at the bottom changed our avalanche beacons to search mode and a girl from the group next to me started a search down the debris. I took of my skis and started a beacon search upwards once Jouni was clearly safe. Once Jouni reached my position we both continued the beacon search to the end of the debris area down below. We found no signal and confirmed from everyone else around the area that no-one had seen anyone entering the gully and there were no ski or snowboard tracks entering it. Then we hiked from the debris gully back to traverse and headed for the lifts. Jouni told us that the avalanche crown was around 50 cm high at the top. Hiking took some 15 to 20 minutes and right next to the slopes someone from the resort personnel came to talk to us. The German speaking ones from our group explained that we had not seen anyone or any tracks entering the area and that we had conducted a beacon search on the whole debris without a signal. He thanked us and said that no further actions will be done.

Other angles to the avalanche:

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On the big ridge west of the resort was a similar looking area with a natural avalanche:

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Later during the day we noticed a few helicopters flying around the resort and heard from a woman in the same lift that another avalanche had taken place next to the See. Today I did an Internet search and found out that two persons were cought and one seriously injured in another avalanche close to Wildseeloderhaus.

We spend rest of the afternoon skiing the flat off piste areas close to Wildseeloderhaus.

Update: Lawinenwarndienst blog has additional details from that day. In general their blog is really informative on the current snow conditions.

Plenty to think about here.

-Mikko