Freeriding safety measures in Sölden
Safety first! Everything else is secondary.
Pristine powder slopes are truly tempting but they can also be very risky. Therefore correct behavior in the backcountry is all the more important. Checking the current avalanche and weather reports is just as important as being aware of danger spots in the freeride area of your choice. In addition to appropriate freeride equipment your knowledge about safety in open Alpine terrain should also be up-to-date. The freeride checkpoints in Sölden's ski area help to better assess high Alpine dangers in order to make the right decisions.
Gaislachkogl freeride checkpoint
The Freeride Checkpoint is located right at the top station of Gaislachkogl mountain gondola at 3040 m next to the Powder Q self-service bistro. Here you have the opportunity to check the functionality of your avalanche transceiver by using the so-called "LVS Checker". The Freeride Checkpoint also provides information on the current avalanche danger level and risky slope exposures that you should absolutely avoid. Freeride rules, definition of single avalanche danger levels and important telephone numbers can as well be found at this checkpoint.
Freeride tower at Langeggbahn top station
The Freeride Tower is located at the top station of Langegg 6-person chairlift. The interactive pillar has two main functions: on the one hand, it serves as a meeting place for freeride adventurers in the Giggijoch area. On the other hand, the tower is an important source of information: Which avalanche danger level prevails in the morning, how does it develop until the afternoon? The Freeride Tower - like its counterpart on Gaislachkogl - is also the right place to check your avalanche transceiver.
Please note: Freeriding in the free skiing terrain is at your own risk and the Sölden lift company doesn't assume any liability. Freeriders act on their own responsibility and at their own risk.
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.
- 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 next time
Assess risk correctly - Ride smart!
Check 1: Planning in advance
- Check the current avalanche and weather reportx
- 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 transceiver on site
- 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.
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!
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!
Important emergency numbers for Alpine accidents in Austria:
140 Alpine emergency call
144 Ambulance emergency call
112 European emergency call
+43 (0) 5254 508 825 Emergency call of Bergbahnen Sölden lift company
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:
did happen? (crevasse fall, crash,...)
did it happen – exact location? (name of location, altitude, GPS coordinates)
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.
Tirol's official avalanche warning service
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 HERE. More useful links:
Emergency App - Tirol Mountain Rescue