Avalanche Fatalities on the rise with Backcountry Skiers

The New York Times ran an article titled "Avalanche Survival: Know Your Snow" which was focused on back country avalanche safety. The article mentions a "quantum leap" in the number of back country skier caused by advancements in gear that has created more experts out of skiers who once considered the back country inaccessible. This is not surprising to all of us who use the huts, especially when we are trying to get our reservation forms in! With this comes an increase in the number of avalanche fatalities. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center lists 36 Avalanches in the 2009-2010 Season, with 12 of them by skiers and snowboarders. There were also 2 avalanches in 2010 involving skiers using back country huts in Colorado. One of them resulted in a fatality while the other suffered a broken leg.

The main point of the article is that we all need to be aware of snow conditions and the signs of an avalanche. They discuss groups in Colorado and Utah that are dedicated to teaching avalanche safety. In some instances, these classes include a hut trip! The article also discusses the importance of getting to the victims as quickly as possible. The latest gear including ava lungs and beacons. The best demonstration of this can be seen in the following video, showing an extreme skier who video tapes himself getting buried in an avalanche and his eventual rescue:


There are a number of ways to get informed about avalanche danger. In Colorado, before I go into the backcountry, I head to the CAIC, which has a nice section of tutorials and reference links. One of the nicest features is to get twitter feeds on updates to your back country areas. If you are doing a hut trip, I'd recommend getting twitter updates on the area you'll be skiing. Lasly, If you are going into the Colorado back country, don't forget to purchase a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) Card

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