The snow report can provide valuable information regarding the current avalanche risk. The weather forecast can also be a good indicator of what to expect, but it is important to understand the information presented to you so that you can make the decision about whether or not to go off piste with the best possible information.
The avalanche bulletin
Meteo France publishes a daily avalanche bulletin throughout the whole of the ski season. It is also possible to check how the conditions have been throughout the season.
The avalanche risk
Avalanches can be caused by a number of factors. A mild autumn might prevent the base layer from sticking together. Another risk can be wind slab - when high winds blow the snow to form an unstable area. The most common cause of avalanches however is probably fresh snow that has not had time to bond with the layer below.
The avalanche risk is shown at many of the lifts throughout the area. It is an easy to understand system with a series of five flags and numbers denoting the exact risk.
1 - Low. This is shown with a yellow flag. Both natural and man made avalanches are very unlikely. Whilst there may be some isolated areas of instability travel off piste is generally very safe, although normal caution is advised.
2 - Moderate. This is also shown with a yellow flag. Natural avalanches are still mostly unlikely but man made avalanches are possible. Steeper terrain offers the highest risks of avalanches so increased caution is advised in these areas.
3 - Considerable. This is shown with a yellow and black checkered flag. Natural avalanches are possible and man made avalanches are probable, especially on steeper terrain. Extra caution is advised on steeper terrain but other areas could still have unstable snowpack so it is important to be aware of this.
4 - High. This is also shown with a yellow and black checkered flag. Both natural and man made avalanches are increasingly likely. There will be unstable slabs on different aspects, not just the steeper slopes. Travel off piste is not advised, but there are ways to increase the safety such as avoiding steeper slopes and avoiding traversing below them.
5 - Extreme. This is shown with an all black flag. The snowpack is extremely unstable and man made and natural avalanches are widespread throughout the area on all aspects and slopes. These avalanches can be extremely large and destructive. Itís recommended that skiers stick to lower angle slopes and make sure they avoid avalanche run out areas.