Backcountry Awareness Day – Morzine

Words by Sophie Offord

Staying safe is the raddest thing you could do this winter and when skiing the backcountry there is no such thing as too much knowledge! With all the snow last week, the Planks Morzine team went up to touch up on their avalanche awareness skills.

Linking up with Mountain Mavericks, we headed up to Avoriaz for a 2 hour course with Avoriaz Alpine Ski School. Starting off in their hut, we went through the key areas to check before heading out Off Piste; How to check and read the weather, checking our equipment works, that our transceivers had enough battery and looking at the snowfall and direction of the sun to make informed decisions on avalanche risks.

After gearing up and clicking in we headed up the Grandes Combes chair to check out the bowl beneath Les Hauts Forts. This is a super popular area for Off Piste skiing in Morzine, and has a tendency to slide when the avalanche risks are high.  The instructor took us through how to recognise the risks, identify terrain traps, where best to position yourself if you think it is likely to slide and how best to go about dropping in to a line. Having previously learnt this on paper, doing it out on the mountain can be an invaluable way of learning to recognise the risks and plan a descent in real life.


A quick ski down, we grouped together to go through the best practices using a transceiver, shovel and probe as well as learning about digging a snow pit and analysing the snowpack and conducting stability tests. A quick pretend transceiver search revealed that each model is different and works in a slightly different way so it’s a good idea to get to know your transceiver before heading out there!

The session ended with a group discussion and information sharing from each other’s different experiences, revealing that each situation is different and another great way to learn from other riders and obtain as much knowledge as you can!

So before you head up there read your local avy forecast every morning, take an avalanche safety class before you go out into dangerous terrain – you can book with Avoriaz Alpine Ski School here and always focus on minimising risks and staying safe up there!

Images - Sam Ingles.

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