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An avalanche risk prevention tool for mountain refuge wardens.

Maps indicating which slopes have a gradient of more than 30° were handed out to refuge wardens at their Annual General Meeting in Tignes in December 2017. A slope’s gradient is a crucial parameter when it comes to avalanche risk.

JANUARY 2018

Carte des pentes à plus de 30 degrés

The warden at Le Pavé (Écrins massif) recently received her gradient map. Her refuge is located at its centre.
  • Project partner: National Institute of Geographic and Forestry Information (IGN) and National Union of Refuge Wardens (SNGRE)
  • Country: France
  • Project type: Accident prevention
  • Budget: €11,600 in 2017

Published by the IGN (National Geographic Institute) and printed by the Petzl Foundation, 152 gradient maps were handed out at the Annual General Meeting of the National Union of Refuge Wardens on 8 December 2017. These maps use different coloured overprints to provide a graphical representation of slopes exceeding 30°, making it easier to read the terrain. They therefore offer a better understanding of the morphology of a massif or valley.

For snowshoeing and alpine touring enthusiasts, gradient is one of the most important parameters to take into account when selecting a route that is suited to current snow conditions.

Gradient maps: an essential tool when preparing for an outing

For refuge wardens, the final witnesses of the decisions made by those visiting the mountains, having this kind of assessment tool is an undeniable step forward. Their visitors can now check their route at the last minute and make changes depending on the conditions they are likely to encounter.

Particular attention has been paid to the way in which the maps are made. They are printed on durable tear-resistant material. On each map, the refuge has been positioned in the centre or in a geographical area conducive to winter sports. These maps have an instruction booklet, which can be downloaded free of charge from the Petzl Foundation’s website.

Following a request from the Mountain Coordination Association and the Petzl Foundation, in November 2016 the IGN made gradient maps available online for free at www.geoportail.gouv.fr. It should soon be possible for anyone to print these maps thanks to the “Cartes à la carte” service.

In the winter season, it is hoped that displaying these gradient maps in refuges will reduce the number of accidents. Unfortunately, France still tops the rankings when it comes to the number of fatalities caused by avalanches, with an average of 30 deaths per year.


The gradient information shown is provided merely as an indication. When preparing for a winter excursion in “off-piste” areas, slope gradients must be checked in conjunction with the avalanche risk determined according to the European scale and published by Météo-France on a daily basis. It is also crucial to take into account the area’s avalanche history, the nature of the terrain and the level of ability of the individuals involved, who must take responsibility for their own safety.




Uploaded in January 2018


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