Snowboarding is a fun and safe sport as long as you know what you’re doing. Occasionally of course we push the limits. A few years ago whilst snowboarding with someone around La Dole we decided that rather than go back down via St Cerque we would snowboard home by passing over the ridge and down the other side. For decades both us had hiked those slopes so we knew them well.
I took one step and felt myself falling. I was face down in the snow and I called to the person I was with to know whether he could see me. He could, so I knew there was no problem. We both strapped our snowboards on and from that point we snowboarded down the slope.
In Verbier a 29 year old Entrepreneur lost his life after falling from a cliff into a rive below, from a few articles I’ve read. The conditions are unclear at the moment. What is clear though is that the people did not have a proper contingency plan or experience of the mountains. If the conditions are adverse the last thing you want to do is go off piste, especially when you’re not with a local guide who knows the mountains.
The reason I’m speaking about this particular story is that these people had some of the latest technology at their disposal. GPS enabled iphones and twitter, as is written in this article. If you’re lost in the mountains with this type of device you can get a geo loc within twenty meters of where you are. You can see a satellite view of where you are and you can see which way would be the best to get home. You can also stay put and let rescuers find you rather than attempt to make it back down. If your GPS location is within 20 meters it’s not that complicated to find two people.
The other reason I’m speaking about this is that some of those who were part of the group were tweeting the adventure. One tweet speaks about the great time they were having and how they “finished the ski day due to complete whiteout”. The next is about the 2 people missing. Screen grabs of the tweets are here.
This demonstrates the weakness of the iphone and the GPS functionality. With my phone whenever I go outdoors the GPS tracks my exact location within 20-60 meters. What this means is that if I go missing within a minute you’ll see exactly where I am if you’ve added me on Google latitude. On that note I’ve invited a few more people to follow me on google latitude. If you have an S60 Symbian phone maybe you could do the same, just as a backup.
It’s a shame it had to happen to anyone, especially since that type of accident is easy to avoid. It’s even more of a shame that Hermioneway, whom I met at LeWeb in Paris is one of those that had to go through the experience. Switzerland is a beautiful country for all those that enjoy outdoors sports and beautiful landscapes so it’s a shame that it’s overshadowed by that event.