Chapter 2 – Mountain Weather

From the book Free Skiing – How to adopt to the mountain by Jimmy Odén – Co-founder of Elevenate and UIAGM Mountain Guide

The spring snow on the east face of Testa del Rutor had been excellent. But as the snow there got softer, at an altitude of 2700 metres, we started skiing slopes that faced more south, where the snow was still just as great. Only moments before we got into the helicopter that morning, I had poked the snow with my pole and noticed that only the top layers were frozen, and not all the way to the ground. Having to change aspects already worried me a bit. I realised, even at 2700 metres, that it was much warmer than it had been for days, which meant that the risk of an avalanche would increase rapidly and dramatically. And I was uneasy, as the group was skiing much more slowly than I had anticipated. We hit the rotten snow at 2200 metres and in a very short time, the unexpectedly mild temperature had turned the nice spring snow into avalanche terrain. And the snow wasn’t frozen on any aspect at this altitude. Luckily, we didn’t have too far to go. One more short steep section, roughly 30°, and after that the terrain was at all the way down to the village. We traversed to avoid the steepest section, trying to keep at a distance from one another. But as we passed a convex section, the heaviest of my clients set off a small, wet snow slough that went all the way to the ground. Suddenly everyone realised that we really had to get out of there. We struggled through the rotten snow the last 300 metres down, but at least it was at enough to be safe. Fortunately we didn’t have to call the rescue helicopter. The sudden rise in temperature had made everything unskiable. We would have hit the rotten snow without doubt, no matter what aspect or altitude we skied at. Our skiing day was already over at 10.15.

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