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US suffered most avalanche deaths in 11 years, led by skiers

ski diva

Staff member
From Bloomberg.com:

The U.S. suffered 36 avalanche deaths during the 2020-2021 season, the most in 11 years, according to data compiled by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Skiing accounted for 17 deaths, followed by snowmobiles at eight, snowboarding at five, snowshoeing and climbing also at five and one unclassified, the data show.

Colorado led the nation with 12 avalanche deaths. Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah, Washington and Wyoming also reported fatalities.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I think that not only increased covid related recreation is a factor here. I haven’t looked at all the statistics but I know at least some of the victims were super experienced, working as patrollers etc. Not just new people trying it out. I don’t work actively in it anymore, but my academic field is aviation human factors which involves a lot of accident investigation and analysis of perception (visual, auditory, spatial), communication and decision making. Lots of descriptions of bro-culture remind me of old stories of flying culture and how communication was impacted negatively. Starting in the late 1970s (after Tenerife in 1977) changes to specific terms for communication and training about interteam communication challenges has been standard for aircrews. I have not taken any backcountry safety classes but in reading about various people’s experiences the lack of an established and expected way to “speak up” and the teams willingness (or lack thereof) to hear/consider/act on this has been featured more than once. There are other decision making heuristics that can get highly experienced teams and team members into dangerous situations. Most aircrew don’t love the extra training hours devoted to the “touchy-feely” topics but the safety record supports the importance of having this training for high performance teams. I wonder if more emphasis placed on human factors in backcountry education would make a difference?
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I’m back in Vermont for a few days, and noticing all over again how the death of Ian Forgays caused such pain in the community. The ski industry is very close-knit, and there are several folks around here (near Okemo) who knew him and his photo is up on the wall at a local ski shop. (Reminder - experienced backcountry guy, resort employee, solo trip.) it can happen to the most competent people.

Amie H

Angel Diva
There was an avalanche death when I was in Beaver Creek this year; person was technically off-piste. Wasn't really in the news out there at the time because it occurred when the King Sooper shooting in Boulder happened.
Honestly, I'm shocked the toll wasn't higher here, and I have to think the number of road closures associated with storms kept people home and safe. It was just difficult to get out there with all that snow coming down.
I just saw there was a not-avalanche related death but a heli skiing crash and death recently... 4 died and there’s one survivor. It seems like it’s been high this year bc I wonder if more people have been venturing out than in years passed

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