Adventure Families: Avalanche Fear and 5 Tips for Families Skiing / Snowboarding

I’m often asked by people “aren’t you scared of avalanches when you ski so much?” Short answer: Yes. Any skier/rider worth their weight that spends time in the mountains KNOWS this is a permanent risk underlying our favourite activity. Avalanches are real. They kill real people every year. They are not exclusive to the Alps and they can happen anywhere with mountains/hills and at almost any time.

So, if that’s true, then what the heck makes me go up a mountain, with my children and ignore this reality.

Several factors lead to this; none of which I intend to sound smug or dismissive. I am forever aware that this is part of mountain life and sports and try to be smart and prepared.

Like all parents, I fear ANYTHING happening to my precious kids.

5 Tips For Getting Over Avalanche Fear:

  1. Trust the mountain rescue workers to do their jobs. That does NOT mean only after an avalanche has struck. Mountain rescue workers around the world are working day in and out to secure mountains and make sure they are safe for us to enjoy. They post daily risk factor scales (usually 1-5 rating or a flag system) and shut down mountains they deem unsafe. They routinely bomb mountains to set off avalanches (in secure situations) that seem evident. Watch the following video of a purpose-led avalanche by the amazing staff at Glacier 3000/Les Diablerets:
  2. Wear Recco reflector strips. My entire family does. We wear them in the recommended manner of one on one boot and one on the helmet. Recco is a trademarked avalanche rescue system that almost every ski resort in the world uses to find people trapped in an avalanche. There are several clothing companies that now make winter wear with Recco sewn into their clothes. Their transmitters are the best in the world and when the juniors start wanting to experience more freeride and off piste adventures, we will buy one for each of us.
  3. Stay on piste and listen to the advice of the mountain staff. If they have closed my favourite piste for the day, I don’t argue or think I’m above their decisions. I listen to their advice and stay where it is safe.
  4. On my personal to-do list is to take one of the numerous FREE avalanche safety training courses offered throughout Switzerland next year. Anyone can attend and as my juniors get older and push the boundaries of their skiing, I will make sure they are fully trained up in this area. Look to see if courses are offered near where you ski or at your favourite mountain gear shop.
  5. ABS Airbag systems. We don’t have these yet but we will all get them when/if freeride becomes a part of our lives. Check them out!


Until then, I have discussed avalanches with the kids and we have practices the dog-paddle move you are meant to do to help create breathing space if you are ever caught in an avalanche. Our needs and the safety items on our list will expand as their skiing does but for now, I take comfort in playing it safe and only skiing when the pisteur/mountain staff say it is a moderate risk day. Their job is to make us safe and if I didn’t have faith in them, I don’t think I could ever take my precious children to 3000m/10 000ft.

Things happen but trust the mountain staff to always have your safety in mind. We were caught at 3000m/10000ft when a storm came out of nowhere. Out came the snowcats to save us. These dudes were my heroes that day!

Photo/Video credit: Glacier 3000/Les Diablerets, ABS Airbag System, Fotolia, Jennifer Hart

It’s official: we are moving to Switzerland

Back in 2005, when Mr H asked me to marry him at the Paris Opéra, I was just a girl from Canada (Thunder Bay, to be exact) who felt dizzy with the lights and craziness of my new potential life. One that didn’t involve flying back and forth across the Atlantic to see the guy I was falling for anymore but rather, one that meant I was relocating here. Somewhere new, fresh and incredibly intimidating. It was French, it was Paris, it was all a lot to take in!! However, we married, I moved and life was pretty sweet. At the time, we were supposed to live here about 2 years. It’s 2015 and we are still here…until this coming summer.

It’s true, we are leaving Paris. We are leaving for a new life in the Lausanne-area of Switzerland and we couldn’t be happier!! Mr H has found and amazing job that he is very excited about and we all support his decision to relocate us for work. While leaving Paris will see many nights of tears and wine, I have no doubt we are making the right decision for our little family.

We have already told our families and some local friends we are leaving, but in doing so, I have come to realise a lot of folks are a bit in the dark about Switzerland. It kind of seems like the Canada of Europe – everyone has heard of it, everyone can name one or two things about it but after that, there is a lot of humming and hawing. Let me help:

1) Switzerland has 4 national languages (Italian, German, French, Romansh). We are moving to the French-speaking part which is excellent for my little bilingual family. I have been re-learning Italian since December and Mr H has been trying to switch his German to Swiss German. This isn’t necessary but we plan to travel around our new country and always find it useful to speak a local language as best we can.

2) Switzerland is a 6 hour drive from Paris. We will be back my beloved Parisian friends xo

3) Switzerland is not in the EU and we will now require visas to work there…Mr H gets one with his job and I have to sort that out for myself which might take time, hence the blog to keep me busy!

4) the junior Harts will attend French-speaking schools like they have in Paris

5) yes, I plan to ski a LOT with Heidi-style braids whilst wearing a Rolex and eating chocolate. Maybe I will yodel, too.  Then eat fondue. OK these are stereotypes but I’m not kidding on the skiing part (or chocolate)!

There will be shocking changes as there are with any international move but we’ve got this. We have already dreamed up our own traditions being a ‘family constantly away from other family’ and I have no doubt that whatever bumps, shocks and ‘omg I didn’t know that!’ moments gets in our way, we will sort it out the way we always have: with laughter and lots of hugs. Maybe some chocolate, too.

Hello and Bonjour

This is it. After 10 years in Paris, France, we are set for a new adventure. Who are ‘we’? We are a Canadian-British family with two kids born and raised thus far in Paris. We are, as my oldest says, citizens of the world. He is right. His sister doesn’t quite understand how different we are just yet but I think this will happen soon enough. I am leaving behind my job, friends, life, soccer club and running club in Paris to restart soon in another country. I’m not sure how seamless this will be so I decided to write about it. Will anyone read this? I’m not sure but I know it will at least help me!

We wanted this change but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a lot of stress. Breathe, one-two-three, have a glass or two of wine, and here we go!!!!