The 2014-2015 season was a relatively deadly season worldwide when it comes to avalanche deaths. 137 avalanche related deaths were recorded worldwide this year and that is a 40% increase compared to the long-year average. Although this season was a deadly one, the U.S. had only 11 deaths which is relatively low compared to the typical 26 avalanche related deaths.
This season revealed the importance of taking proper safety precautions before entering avalanche-prone areas. 14% of the avalanche victims were alone and another 16% weren’t equipped with avalanche beacons. That adds up to be at least 30% of the victims that would’ve been very difficult rescues in the case of an accident. In the case of an avalanche, there’s usually a 15-18 minute window where someone can be dug out and still have a reasonable shot at survival. There were four avalanche deaths that occurred where an airbag was unable to keep the victim from being buried which produced deadly results. Only 28% of the deaths occurred on terrains where the lift was used to access the backcountry compared to the 60% that occurred while touring, so it is always safer to go with lift accessed backcountry terrain.
137 avalanche related deaths is a staggering number for one year, but it’s nothing we can’t learn from. The 2015 season showed us the importance of riding on terrain that isn’t too steep due to the fact that 98% of avalanche deaths in 2014-2015 occurred on terrain that was too steep to be considered safe. Knowing about the backcountry is always a great preventative method. Along with that, it’s always important to never ride alone and to take an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe along with you to increase your chance of survival in the case of an accident.