Freeriding safety measures
Two words, one principle: safety first!
Wind and weather set the pace in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl's high Alpine terrain. Those who enjoy skiing or riding off the secured slopes must adapt to the rhythm of nature. In addition to correct behavior in the backcountry it is an absolute must to the check the current avalanche hazard level and weather report in advance. Also your sports equipment should be up to date just like your freeriding safety knowledge. Obergurgl-Hochgurgl provides powder fans with useful facilities and tools to raise awareness and minimize risks.
SnowHow App / Map
Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is a partner of SNOWHOW, an initiative dedicated to "avalanche science as a general education in the Alpine habitat".
The respective SNOWHOW Freeride App offers freeriders a variety of very useful features to plan the freeride day according to the prevailing conditions in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl:
- Offline map material incl. special, color-coded slope map that indicates also inclined terrain
- Avalanche report of Tirol's avalanche warning service (only for North & East Tirol)
- Weather & snow report (only for North & East Tirol)
- Compass / "set north" function
- Track recording of freeride tours which can be shared with other users
If you don't have a smartphone, you can use the SNOWHOW Freeride Map online on your PC or tablet. Like the app, the freeride map offers a slope code system, displays danger or crash points and provides information on important infrastructures (e.g. avalanche transceiver check points or WiFi spots).
The SNOWHOW Freeride App or Map are no substitute for other important orientation tools, a profound decision-making process and necessary safety equipment. The information on the map and the indicated tours are not to be understood as route suggestions on off-piste terrain.
ORTOVOX Safety Academy (Lab) & Training Park
Another cooperation partner of Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is ORTOVOX, a supplier of Alpine and outdoor sports equipment. ORTOVOX also focuses on the promotion of avalanche prevention. For this purpose the new SAFETY ACADEMY LAB interactive website has been developed, including video tutorials, learning tools and detailed avalanche information. Rudi Mair and Patrick Nairz from Tirol's Avalanche Warning Service are among the most famous avalanche experts in Europe and have participated in the project.
A special ORTOVOX TRAINING PARK was also set up in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl. Here you can train the most complex avalanche victim search scenarios with permanently installed transceivers, so that you are prepared for emergencies. The training park is available next to Steinmannbahn lift in the Fun Park area throughout the season.
In cooperation with the Alpincenter Obergurgl a safety training - called ORTOVOX SAFETY ACADEMY - is scheduled as well. The main aim is to put into practice theoretical avalanche knowledge in the open skiing terrain.
Avalanche transceiver check in 4 locations
In the following four locations within the ski area you have the opportunity to check the functionality of your avalanche transceiver: 2x Festkogl, 1x Hohe Mut, 1x Wurmkogl.
What is part of the freeride equipment? Which rules have to be observed during freeriding? How can I minimize the risk already in the planning stage but also in the outdoors? Questions upon questions! The following avalanche risk checklist provides an overview of all important details.
☑ Freeride equipment
- Avalanche transceiver (LVS in German)
- Avalanche shovel
- Avalanche probe
- First aid kit
- Mobile phone for emergency calls
- Recommended: backpack with avalanche airbag system
☑ Basic freeride rules
- Daily check of current avalanche report
- Never without avalanche transceiver in the free skiing terrain; regular training of avalanche victim search
- Never alone in the backcountry and not in very large groups
- Check before drop-in: who/what is above me, who/what is below me?
- Ski down one by one on extremely steep slopes
- When climbing steep terrain keep sufficient distance
- Bad view? You better go back and try the next time
☑ Check 1: Planning in advance
- Check the current avalanche and weather report
- What is the current avalanche hazard level? Remember danger spots
- What is the weather like? Which conditions prevail in the freeride area?
- Select the area & tour according to the conditions
- Who is coming with you? Beginners or already experienced freeriders?
- Check sports equipment
☑ Check 2: Observing & Assessing terrain
- Is there fresh snow? If yes, how much?
- Are there any hazard signs? Always watch out for danger signs, e.g. triggered avalanches of all sizes, strange sounds, waves or dunes, wind slabs, accumulated drift snow
- Where are the favorable or unfavorable slope directions, where are possible danger spots?
- Recall the avalanche report on the spot and pay attention to hazards
- Check the avalanche victim search device
- How do my freeride buddies behave: (in)cautious behavior? Exhaustion or overstrain? Do they fall down frequently?
☑ Check 3: Check of every single slope & Decision
- Check the amount of fresh snow
- Are there fresh wind slabs or snowdrift areas?
- Does the slope have an inclination of 30 degrees and is there a high possibility of avalanches? Is the slope among the avalanche-prone areas according to the daily avalanche hazard report: inclination, altitude
- What if? Always watch out for escape routes. Typical avalanche areas are e.g. steep slopes interspersed with rocks, steep leeside terrain or steep slope in the shadow
- Can I and my buddies ski down the powder slope quickly and without falling?
- Keep sufficient distance
- Fix certain meeting points.
Triggering is generally possible but only from high additional load in isolated areas of extremely steep terrain. Only small-sized sluffs and natural avalanches are expected. Snow layers are generally stable.
Avalanches may be triggered in case of truly heavy loads, especially on a few explicitly indicated, steep slopes. Large spontaneous avalanches are not expected. In general, the snowpack is well bonded except on some very steep slopes. Choose your route carefully, avoid the indicated slopes and exposed sections.
Triggering is very probable even from low additional loads, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. On some steeper slopes, medium or even fairly large spontaneous avalanches may occur. On most steep slopes the snow layer is only moderately or weakly stable. Expert avalanche knowledge is absolutely required. You must avoid the indicated steep slopes and highly exposed sections.
Avalanches are likely to be triggered on many of the indicated steep slopes even if only light loads are applied. In some places, numerous medium-sized and also large-sized natural avalanches are expected. The snowpack is poorly bonded on most steep slopes. Choose your route according to these criteria, select only moderately steep terrain by avoiding the avalanche runout zones. Very expert avalanche knowledge is required.
5 (Extremely high)
Numerous huge or very large-sized natural avalanches are expected also in moderately steep terrain at any time. Safe skiing is not possible anymore, not even in the marked ski area. The snowpack is poorly bonded and largely unstable. Don't go freeriding at all!
Always check the current avalanche danger level before setting out on a freeride tour! A daily updated avalanche report is available (in the winter months) on the official website of Tirol's avalanche warning service.
More useful links:
Current Tirol avalanche report
Which slope inclination at which avalanche risk level?
- Risk level 2 (moderate avalanche hazard): avoid extremely steep slopes with a slope inclination beyond 40 degrees
- Risk level 3 (considerable avalanche hazard): avoid very steep slopes with a slope inclination of more than 35 degrees
- Risk level 4 & 5 (high and very high avalanche hazard): don't go freeriding at all
- Stay away from steep and rocky terrain and don't jump over snow cornices
In case of doubt or bad feeling: cancel the powder run or freeride tour immediately - it's a question of life!
(This avalanche risk checklist includes input and information by powderguide.com)
Important emergency numbers for Alpine accidents in Austria:
140 Alpine emergency call
144 Ambulance emergency call
112 European emergency call
When placing an emergency call always give the following information first, just in case that the telephone connection is bad or cut off for any reason:
WHAT did happen? (crevasse fall, crash,...)
WHERE did it happen – exact location? (name of location, altitude, GPS coordinates)
HOW is the condition of the injured? (unconscious, severely injured,...)
Give your name and phone number to the operator. Make sure you can be reached on the phone until the rescue team arrives in case the operator or the helicopter must contact you again.
IMPORTANT: Follow the instructions given by the operator, answer all questions clearly and don't put down the phone until you are told to. The operator can provide you with important information on how to treat the injured.
Emergency App - Tirol Mountain Rescue
Always be on the safe side thanks to the Emergency App. Made especially for Alpine emergencies within Tirol!