13 of the Scariest Avalanches Caught on Camera

When it comes to big mountain snowboarding, without a doubt, the number one fear is avalanches. Whilst you can be the best snowboarder on the planet, an avalanche doesn’t care.

An avalanche doesn’t care how many medals you’ve got, how many sponsors are stickered on your board, or how many followers you’ve got on Instagram; an avalanche is indifferent to your skills, and it’ll take you if it gets the opportunity.

Avalanche safety is best practiced by preventative measures when it comes down to it. You’ve got to respect the mountain, and look for signs that it’s not happy with you being there. You can have ABS backpacks, shovels, beacons and probes, but in an ideal world, you should never have to use them in your lifetime.

We’ve rounded up some of the gnarliest footage on the web, from riders’ perspectives, and also from huge, awe-inspiring/sphinchter-contracting controlled avalanches to give you an idea of the respect that mountains are due.

That black dot at the bottom right is Victor Daviet about to be given the worst Alaskan welcome you can imagine.


Johno Verity – New Zealand (2008)

UK snowboarder Johno Verity was in New Zealand back in 2008 filming for a documentary on avalanches, when he got more than he bargained for and actually got caught whilst following filming a rider on the face of Mt Cook.

Despite the guide checking the snowpack for stability with the new snow that had fallen on top, the rutschblock test showed that the pack was stable.

Eric Themel, the Austrian snowboarder he was filming, jumped off a cliff and as he landed, the pack began to fracture. Johno was following, and was quickly caught by the slide, which ended up turning him face down into the snow and heading towards a depression in the terrain that would see him churned up at the bottom of it.

Luckily, Johno was spat out to the side of the slide, and lived to tell the tale.

North Ossetia, Russia (2011)

As we said before, one of the best stances to take on avalanches is a pro-active one. Instead of waiting tentatively for snow to fracture naturally, if you induce them after new snowfall it means you can minimise the risk to the surrounding area by ensuring the avalanche isn’t too big.

This avalanche from North Ossetia, shows what happens when a controlled avalanche strikes. As the snow from the surrounding range funnels into the gulley, it leads the freight train of snow, ice and rock towards the populated area.

Saint François Longchamp, France (2012)

This terrifying footage of an avalanche taking place at the French resort of Saint François Longchamp. The avalanche struck at 15:15 on the 2nd of March, 2012 after unseasonably high temperatures baked the region. With the mercury at a steady 0°, the snow began to melt meaning a small river of water began to flow under the snowpack.

As the water began to flow, it weakened the anchors that held the snow on the 30° pitch of the hill, and it triggered leaving a 200m wake of destruction in its path. Reports show that the front of the avalanche was 6m of solid snow that collided into the lift pylons with the force of 60kPa.

Whilst many have criticised the lift operator for not stopping the lift from moving, we can only speculate that she wanted the riders on the lift to pass over the moving part of the avalanche as quickly as possible, in case the lift collapsed. She managed to stop any more riders getting on the lift before the slide hit, winning her praise from the local rescue services.

Jeremy Jones, Alaska (2006)

Jeremy Jones is one of the most respected and highly talented big mountain riders of all time. His experience spans over nearly two decades of riding peaks in AK, the Himalayas, Europe and pretty much any country you can think of that has insane spines.

For Teton Gravity Researchs’ 2006 film ‘Anomaly’, Jeremy was faced with the shitter of all seasons; getting bucked out on chutes, pummelled on crashes and dodging avalanches in AK. As he says in the video, it took all of his experience to not get wiped out in such conditions.

The thing that amazes us with this video, is that he managed to stay on his feet for so long after the avalanche hits. Truly amazing stuff from the zen-miester of snowboarding.

Anzère, Switzerland (2015)

The Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, is one of the world’s longest standing research institutions. Set up in 1931 in Davos, they built their first research centre in 1936 and have been researching them ever since.

They research the full-spectrum of avalanches; flow dynamics, how they’re formed and the variables that affect them. In 1995, an outpost in Sion was built – Sion was renowned for a high level of avalanche activity, and since then, they’ve been able to conduct controlled avalanches in a safe environment.

Victor Daviet, Alaska (2014)

Victor Daviet, is one of the rising stars of the European scene. Once a competition ripper, he’s turned his hand to the backcountry to hone his freestyle skills. After filming with Xavier De Le Rue, the French big mountain legend, Victor’s interest in riding steep peaks and gnarly descents was stoked.

Whilst filming in Alaska, he managed to set off a huge slide on his first run… ever… in AK. Faced with a sheer drop to the right, and an expansive slide to the the left, there was only ever one option; point it straight.

We’re glad to say Victor lived to ride another day. Just look at the speed he’s up to before he crashes. Fucking insane.

Nabbaren, Norway (2014)

This huge controlled avalanche on Stjernøya island, in Northern Norway, was set off by a mining company that burrows under the mountain. In conjunction with the Norwegian Geological Institute, they set off this avalanche after a huge snowstorm than enveloped the region of Finnmark.

The buildings you see in the background of the shot is the accommodation for the local miners. All the miners had been evacuated from their rooms, and you can see the avalanche from their perspective here.

Despite being protected by a 15m high concrete wall, there was still some damage from the avalanche.

Torstein Horgmo, USA (2010)

Whilst this might not appear to be the gnarliest avalanche of all time, we wanted to include it to show that it doesn’t have to be a super steep slope for an avalanche to strike.

Norwegian ripper Torstein Horgmo, was filming for ‘Black Winter’ when he slammed on the landing. The force of his fall set the slope in motion, burying him and almost taking the crew out with him.

Kootenay National Park, Canada (2014)

This avalanche set off in the Kootenay Pass, in Canada’s interior is hella big. The road below is one of Canada’s most important highways, linking the interior country with the larger cities on the Western seaboard, meaning that any un-expected avalanche could lead to massive infrastructure damage.

Gigi Rüf, Alaska (2014)

While filming for Pirate Movie Productions’ film ‘Perceptions’ in Alaska, back in 2014; Gigi Rüf got caught in a massive avalanche.

Looking back on the experience, Gigi reflects on the difficult decisions that need to be made on a daily basis in the backcountry, no matter how experienced you are.

Süd Tirol, Italy (2014)

Süd Tirol, is the German-speaking part of Italy, nestled on the border with southern Austria. The steep valleys coupled with the warm temperatures make it one of the most unstable regions in the Alps.

Watch as the recognisable avalanche snow cloud forms, before all of the snow gets pushed further and further down the valley, dragging trees, rocks and other debris along with it, and almost taking out a house on the way.

Canale Holzer, Italy (2013)

While “Two Italians at the top of a couloir” might sound like the beginning of a particularly bad joke, it’s in fact the prelude to “and then a massive powder avalanche funnels over the ridge and almost kills them.”

Close. Call.

For those wondering, this was in the Canale Holzer – a pretty gnarly gulley (between 40-50 degrees of steepness) in the Italian Dolomites. You need to abseil at one point, which it seems these dudes were setting up for as the avalanche entered stage right. We’re betting the remainder of the descent was even more ring-quivering than usual.

Xavier De Le Due – 2011

“I think we just forgot to read some signs,” says Xavier of this day that he was engulfed by a raging ocean of snow.

After avoiding a smaller sluff following a tumble, De Le Rue continues his run only to have the whole face crack open beneath him. The size of the slide that swept him away is nothing short of immense, and it speaks volumes that when his buddies started looking for him they concentrated their efforts at the top, thinking if he’d been taken for the 2km ride and deposited in the gulley at the bottom they’d only find a corpse.

Somehow, the heli crew spotted something at the bottom and radioed that they should indeed search at the avalanche’s runout where, after 10 minutes had elapsed, they found Xavier near the surface being strangled by his helmet strap and with a mouth full of snow. Of course, he went on to make a full recovery and is still pushing the limits of big mountain riding today. But any longer and he might not have been so lucky.

Sorin Radu, Romania (2015)

Click here to watch the video

Sorin Radu went viral early in 2015 after getting caught in an avalanche on the Papușa Peaks, around the central mass of mountains in Romania.

Despite being a volunteer mountain guide with over 6 years of experience on mountain trails in the summer, it just goes to show how easy it is to be caught in a slide. Sorin’s turn loaded the slope with pressure, leaving a huge slab to hit left to fracture and begin to slide.


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