Snow Safety Info & Links



Safety Overview:

Chatel has about 40 dedicated professionals dedicated to keeping you safe whilst you are on the mountain. Some of these professionals are the ski patrol or pisteurs that you will see on the slopes and they are easily recognised as they wear yellow and green on their outfits. The ski patrol can be contacted on 0033 (0) 450 73 35 99 but in an emergency you can just dial 112 (or 144 if you are in Switzerland) or you can raise the alarm with the nearest lift operator or ski instructor.


Chatel's pistes are also protected by the ski patrol by the removing of avalanche dangers through blasting or bombing the avalanche prone areas or using the Gazex and Catez avalanche control systems. Overnight, the piste maintenance crews come out and smooth out the pistes to make them safe for the next day.


Below is some general information about safety on and off the piste. This subject is very close to our hearts as site co-founder Roger found himself caught up in an avalanche in February 2012. To read his account of his survival of this incident and the lessons he has learned from it - click here. There was an avalanche at almost the same spot in 2015 and there is an excellent (but harrowing) video of the rescue here:





Safety On Piste:

It is recommended that you wear warm and waterproof equipment, carry a mobile phone (with emergency numbers), a piste map and it is becoming common practice to wear a helmet. If you carry a rucksack, then a spare layer of clothing might be a good idea. Other things to consider putting in your pocket or rucksack are your insurance details and a drink and also sunscreen. If you are going off piste, then there are other essentials to carry (see further down the page).


The International Ski Federation code of conduct and rules for on the piste are as follows:


1. Respect for others

A skier or snowboarder must behave in such a way that he does not endanger or prejudice others.

2. Control of speed and skiing or snowboarding

A skier or snowboarder must move in control. He must adapt his speed and manner of skiing or snowboarding to his personal ability and to the prevailing conditions of terrain, snow and weather as well as to the density of traffic.

3. Choice of route

A skier or snowboarder coming from behind must choose his route in such a way that he does not endanger skiers or snowboarders ahead.

4. Overtaking

A skier or snowboarder may overtake another skier or snowboarder above or below and to the right or to the left provided that he leaves enough space for the overtaken skier or snowboarder to make any voluntary or involuntary movement.

5. Entering, starting and moving upwards

A skier or snowboarder entering a marked run, starting again after stopping or moving upwards on the slopes must look up and down the slopes that he can do so without endangering himself or others.

6. Stopping on the piste

Unless absolutely necessary, a skier or snowboarder must avoid stopping on the piste in narrow places or where visibility is restricted. After a fall in such a place, a skier or snowboarder must move clear of the piste as soon as possible.

7. Climbing and descending on foot

A skier or snowboarder either climbing or descending on foot must keep to the side of the piste.

8. Respect for signs and markings

A skier or snowboarder must respect all signs and markings.

9. Assistance

At accidents, every skier or snowboarder is duty bound to assist.

10. Identification

Every skier or snowboarder and witness, whether a responsible party or not, must exchange names and addresses following an accident.


Safety Off Piste:

Skiing and snowboarding off piste has become increasingly popular in recent years, as equipment advances has made it more accessible to a wider range of abilities. There are some basic rules that you are advised to follow when you are venturing off piste.


1/ Avoid going off piste alone: This includes just short distances off the marked piste area as the danger is not just related to avalanches, but also hidden objects, hidden hollows / terrain, obstacles, tree stumps etc.

2/ Use a Professional: Try and go off piste with an instructor or guide or at the very least, someone who is equipped and experienced in doing so.

3/ Carry the right equipment: The minimum requirements for each person venturing off piste are an avalanche transciever, rucksack with avalanche probe and folding shovel. Also, learn how to use this equipment before you go off piste (see some of the websites below). Recco reflectors can also be worn on clothing or equipment however, these are detected using a specialist bit of kit used by the piste patrol, so the avalanche transceiver is far more important as it gives your friends in the group the chance to save you in the vital few minutes after burial by an avalanche. Helmets are a very good idea, as if you do get caught up in an avalanche, your head is very vulnerable to serious injury. Phones should be carried and your guide may also have radios to be distributed to the group. Airbag systems are still quite expensive, but have been shown to increase your chances of survival in avalanches, so these are certainly worth considering. It might also be worth considering carrying a whistle, rope and extra clothing in your rucksack too.

4/ Practice, Practice, Practice: As mentioned above, it is one thing having the right kit, but you must also know how it works. Practice with your transceivers and probes as saved time could be vital if you are ever in the unfortunate position of having to use them in a real life situation. It is thought that if you are buried in an avalanche, that you have up to about 15 minutes to be dug out before suffocation takes place and although there will be variations in survival time, every second will count.

5/ Pay attention to Avalanche warning's: Know the avalanche warning flags and scale. Remember that "considerable" risk of avalanches starts at level 3 on the avalance scale. Avalanches are still possible even when the risk is considered to be low. See this link for more info on the international scale of avalance warnings. Meteo France produces a daily avalanche bulletin (usually every afternoon) and this can be accessed by clicking here.

6/ Be Able To Turn Back: If you are in any group and you feel uncomfortable with what you are about to do, there is no shame in turning back if you believe the risks to be unacceptable (and it is safe to do so). To underline this point, co-founder Roger tells of his survival of an avalanche in February 2012 and the lessons he learned and you can read his account by clicking here. There is also an excellent article on the subject relating to the US Tunnel Creek disaster that can be found here.

The following links provide some excellent safety information - the first 2 links provide highly relevant forecast information for this area.


Meteo France Snow & Avalanche Bulletin:
An essential daily read for any snow lover with the latest information on snowpack and avalanche risk from the professionals. Forecasting information can also be found within the "Montagne" section of the Meteo France website. Chatel is in the Chablais area of the Haute-Savoe on the maps. Some knowledge of French is required.. Click here for the bulletin.


SLF Swiss Avalanche Bulletin:
An excellent source of avalanche and snow information. Englidh version.


Henry's Avalanche Talks

"HAT has been helping off-piste skiers and riders to get more from the mountain for 20 years. You can discover how to demystify the ski professional’s expertise so you know how to manage risks.

HAT is a team of ski professionals and free riders who are committed to helping you have more fun off piste.  We can help you develop avalanche awareness and provide you with insight on skiing off piste and development of off-piste skiing skills.

We offer Henry's live Avalanche Talks, personal on snow training, practical beeper training COPE certification and easy to understand online training modules."
A fantastic English language resource for anyone contemplating off piste excursions.

Note - for the archive of the old version of the website (very useful info) - click here