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Technique / Safety

Investigations Continue Following Chamonix Valley Lift Station Fire

A major fire at the cable car mid-station above Argentière in the Chamonix Valley in France has caused serious damage to the two main lifts serving the famous Grands Montets region less than three months before the start of the 2018-19 ski season. The fire began in the early afternoon and spread very quickly throughout all the buildings of the  station.  It broke out during roof repair work being carried out by a specialist sub-contractor, nobody was injured.  However it has caused severe damage to the infrastructures of the two cable-cars above and below the station. “Of the eight cables which equip the two sections of the cable-car, five gave way as a result of the heat generated by the…

Fresh Attempt To Ski the Full 2,000m Vertical ‘Dream Line’ of World’s 5th Highest Peak Planned

A group of Americans have announced plans to try to ski the world’s 5th highest mountain, Lhoste (8516m), close to Mt Everest in the Himalayas. Parts of Lhoste, one of the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 metres, have been skied already, but no one has made the full top to bottom descent. American big mountain climber Adrian Ballinger, who has already skied two 8,000m+ peaks (one of them twice), his longtime girlfriend and professional rock climber Emily Harrington and two other professional climbing athletes had originally planned to make their attempt in September or October but this has been postponed for the time being with a new date pending. When the attempt is made, the key objective of the group’s…

ULLR MOBILE AVALANCHE SAFETY GUIDE APP REVIEW

ULLR MOBILE AVALANCHE SAFETY GUIDE APP $9.99 available on Apple Store This is a brilliant app for anyone interested in avalanche safety – which should be anyone heading off-piste. Ullr works with iPhones to provide up-to-date, detailed avalanche forecasts from the regional centre closest to where you’re skiing. But more than that, it also enables you to record field observations whilst you ski, including location, aspect and slopes angle. Using features of your iPhone such as the camera, GPS, inclinometer, compass and data communication it allows you to provide real-time info on avalanche conditions which can be transmitted to the nearest regional avalanche centre to enhance their avy reports and share the data with other users. No mobile or wi-fi…

SATMAP ACTIVE 20 SOLO GPS UNIT REVIEW

SATMAP ACTIVE 20 SOLO GPS UNIT £395 www.satmap.com Although not designed specifically for skiing and boarding, the Active 20 Solo is a large screen sports mapping GPS which displays highly detailed topographic mapping that can be extremely useful if heading off-piste. Operating the Active 20 is pretty easy to get the hang of initially, and as you get to know your way around it better you can easily move on to more advanced features. It will connect to GPS, Glonass and Galileo, ensuring coverage pretty much anywhere on the planet, and it has wireless connectivity through both wi-fi and Bluetooth Smart. The unit comes with a 3.5” hi-res touchscreen plus the option of touch button operation should you prefer it,…

SKADI FIS SKI APP REVIEW

SKADI FIS SKI APP €14.99 annual subscription www.skadi.guide/ To use Skadi you input your level of ability and skiing/boarding preferences and it acts as a kind of personalised guide to your resort, providing both visual and audio guidance around the resort. It’s also big on gaming, combining resort-wide ‘crystal hunting’ and ‘marmot catching’ which you can exchange for privileges, bonuses and gifts from Skadi partners. The app has been designed in partnership with the FIS (International Ski Federation), and because it is hands-free – you just plug-in your headphones and follow intelligible audio prompts – it saves fiddling around with piste maps. If you like to cruise around the resort and explore without constant stops to check where you are…

FATMAP APP REVIEW

FATMAP APP £2.99 (two weeks); £25.99 (year) www.fatmap.com Fatmap started off as a tool for freeriders to discover the backcountry terrain at their resort of choice but has since expanded to provide info for summer visitors too (hiking, mountain biking etc.). However, it’s the skiing and boarding we’re interested in… The app covers most of the world’s major ski areas and is expanding all the time, so the chances are you’ll find your favourite resort featured. It offers info such as clear 3-D maps, details on slope gradient, aspect, altitude and other crucial pieces of terrain information, location sharing so you and your group can stay in touch, route maps of the best off-piste lines and the facility to record…

ORTOVOX ALU 240 PFA AVALANCHE PROBE REVIEW

ORTOVOX ALU 240 PFA PROBE £55 www.ortovox.com Ortovox market this as a ‘rookie’s probe’ as it’s reduced to the essentials for quick and easy assembly and use, although that’s surely all you need in a probe whether a rookie or a professional? Anyway, what this means is that you get a 200g aluminium probe which can be assembled and collapsed in seconds, with the tension set by simply turning the optimized adjusting screw. The large probe tip, which has a significantly larger diameter compared to the probe elements above it, ensures improved penetration even in hard packed snow. The probe also has easy-to-read depth markers, a clear one-meter marker and there’s a plastic outer sleeve at the top for a…

MAMMUT BARRYVOX S TRANSCEIVER REVIEW

MAMMUT BARRYVOX S £330 www.mammut.swiss The Barryvox S transceiver is recognised as a benchmark in modern avalanche transceivers and is what you’re likely to see rescuers and guides using, so if you spend a lot of time in the backcountry it’s worth considering if you're in the market for a new transceiver, irrespective of the expense. The Barryvox S is also worth considering for the simple reason that it speeds up avalanche rescue times thanks to a wider search strip and reception range than previous models; the search strip width is 70-metres and the transceiver has a reliable reception range of up to 70-metres, and it’s capable of dealing with single or multiple burials, the latter even when signals overlap.…

ORTOVOX 3+ AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT REVIEW

ORTOVOX 3+ AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT £230 www.ortovox.com If you’re getting into backcountry skiing and looking for all the basic safety equipment without breaking the bank this is a great option as it costs less than buying transceiver, shovel and probe separately and it’s actually cheaper than it was last winter. The 3+ set consists of an Ortovox 3+ transceiver, an Ortovox Badger shovel and an Ortovox 240 Light PFA probe, along with an Ortovox Safety Academy Guidebook which explains the basics of avalanche rescue and also contains a lot of useful, additional background information. The 3+ transceiver automatically switches to the best transmission antenna when in use so an avalanche victim can be found quickly and easily, and has an…

SCOTT ALPRIDE 24 ABS PACK REVIEW

SCOTT ALPRIDE 24 ABS PACK £620 www.scott-sports.com Yes, at over six hundred smackers the Scott Alpride is a costly backpack, but how much is your life worth, because the integrated ABS system may well save it? The 24-litre capacity pack is one of the lightest ABS bags on the market at 1240g, and is a good size for daytrips although you’ll struggle to get all the gear you’ll need for an overnight stay in it. The trigger handle is height-adjustable and glove-friendly and has multiple grabbing options – when pulled it will inflate the 150-litre airbag in just three seconds. Scott claim that the system is maintenance free; it uses two cartridges containing a mix of compressed argon and liquified…