This headline in Skiing Magazine caught my attention today: “11 Avalanche Related Deaths in January, What are we Doing Wrong?”
It’s been a very deadly year for avalanches. Sadly this seems to be a trend that has continued to worsen over the past few years. There are a lot of factors that are contributing to this this tragedy, but the main factor really has to do with the fact that more skiers and boarders are leaving ski resort boundaries and entering the backcountry than ever before.
Ski resorts do a lot to keep their slopes safe for skiers. This often includes extensive avalanche mitigation work. Resorts often use explosives to intentionally trigger avalanches and stabilize the snow pack before skiers have a chance to. Outside of ski resort boundaries however, you are left to nature’s unpredictability.
Backcountry terrain is dangerous to even the most educated and experienced back country skier. Often the dangers can be difficult to assess and not at all apparent. One slope within a ski area may be perfectly safe, while a nearly identical slope just outside the ski area might be deadly. When you couple backcountry travel with lack of experience, education and preparedness, you have a deadly combination.
A number of the tragic deaths that occurred this year involved skiers and boarders with little or no backcountry experience. Several were found completely unequipped for the terrain without essentials such beacons, probes and shovels.
Despite how good the snow looks or how exciting the terrain appears to be, please use extreme caution when considering leaving the ski resort boundaries. Only pass through those gates if you really know what you are doing, where you are going, you and your partner have the right equipment, and you understand, appreciate and accept the risks.
Before you leave the resort, at a minimum consider this checklist:
Remember, skiing is fun, but not even the most epic powder turns are worth dying for.
For more information, check the Northwest Avalanche Center’s website for forecasts and learning opportunities.
Our team at Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel wishes you a safe ski season!