Dramatic footage from a couple seasons back of snowboarder Mat Schaer outrunning a massive slide on Mont Gautier in his home country of Switzerland. Make sure to read his comments below to better understand the circumstances that led up to the slide and insights. To begin or continue you avalanche education journey (RESOURCES HERE).
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I feel very lucky I rode out of this and I’m not showing it out of pride. The mountain is stronger and being humble is the best way to ride longer.
However, I feel relevant to analyse and share what happened.
It was January 31st, we finally got a full pow reset after 4 weeks of high pressure and I was excited to start shooting for the movie «from🇨🇭with ❤️».
Deep days started early in the week but I was busy at work and could join the crew only on Friday. On the night before though it rained high and one of the last remaining zones with decent snow was this east face on the Mont Gautier. It was loaded with snow as westerlies were strong during the last storm. Avalanche danger was 3/5. We did a first run and nothing moved (see tracks on the photos). On the 2nd run, I took another entrance to shoot a slash and the whole thing broke on me. So here is what I’ve learned from that event:
1. I was too fired up to start filming and ride some pow again after a full month waiting. Watching people score good runs earlier in the week of course did not calm me down. But the red flags were definitely there; fresh snow with strong winds and fast rising temperature that morning. Wise decision would have been to wait safer conditions.
2. I come to this place each year since a decade. I’ve seen avalanches but always on the lookers’s left (in the cone-like shadow on 1st photo) and much smaller. I was not expecting something that big here. I was overconfident, thinking I knew the place well.
3. The warm-up run gave me a wrong feeling of stability and I let my guard down for the second one. I should not have especially as the sun was starting to heat the face.
4. It’s likely that there was a weak layer 1m deep in the snowpack that I could have identified with a snowpit.
Maybe the only correct decision was to chose a short line with no exposure below (cliffs or terrain traps). I try to only ride that kind of terrain when avy danger is moderate to high.
Last crucial point, if I had been caught in, I’d have rely on my friends who were fortunately well trained for avalanche rescue (thanks to @safetyshreddays) to get me out quickly…