With better equipment available these days more skiers and riders are now heading into the backcountry. While the backcountry holds the fresh powder and gnarly terrain many of us are seeking it also has many risks, including avalanches. Avalanches are no joke. There were 137 deaths caused last winter season worldwide. While you will see lots of statistics on avalanche deaths, we can all be pretty sure that nearly 100% of people killed in these avalanches didn’t think it would happen to them.
The Alarming Numbers:
- At least 30% of the people killed by avalanches did not have a ski partner and/or avalanche rescue equipment (They had no rescue plan for themselves)
- . At least 60% were backcountry skiing without lifts
- . 28% were using lifts (Skiing the “Sidecountry”)
Tips to avoid avalanche fatalities in the backcountry:
- Know the weather and snowpack history.
- Check the local weather forecast and avalanche forecast.
- Ski/ride one at a time when in avalanche prone terrain.
- Ski/ride with a group that is properly equipped with avalanche gear and knows how to use it. (We all have that friend who can charge their gopro, but can’t put fresh batteries in their beacon)
- If you find you are out in potentially unstable conditions pay attention to slope angle. 98% of the avalanches reported were at times when skiing lower-angle slopes was advised.
- Remember that sidecountry is a bad word. It should be treated like backcountry. If you’re 100 yards away from the resort or 100 miles from a ski area the avalanche danger should be treated the same. The terrain is uncontrolled and unpatrolled. You are on your own.
Just having a Beacon isn’t always good enough. Know the forecast. Do you think you’ll be dug out of the above avalanche in time?