It took until January the 3rd, 2016 before the Alps were really white this winter. It's the beginning of April and we're counting 61 avalanche victims in the Alps this season. It's remarkable that 10 people were killed before January the 3rd. 10 mountaineers were killed by avalanches during and after the few moments it snowed during autumn. The most dramatic accident was on September the 15th in the Ecrins when 7 climbers were caught by an avalanche after a first "winter" storm in a relatively cold month of September. We start counting at September 1st (as the starting point of the new winter season).
The Alps turned white after January the 3rd and 14 weeks later avalanches claimed 51 victims. This is slightly less than 4 per week. Below is an overview of the locations where these deadly avalanches came down. If you want to know more details you check out this spreadsheet.
A couple of things are quite interesting:
- At least nine victims had an avalanche airbag and pulled the trigger.
- At least sixteen victims were not wearing an avalanche beacon
- At least three victims were riding alone
- Three victims were teenagers
- Four victims were skiing/snowboarding on closed slopes
Looking at the location of the avalanches there a couple of things that are notable:
- Nearly 90% of the fatal avalanches came down on slopes with an exposure between west over north to south. Only three deadly avalanches came down on a slope with a southern exposure.
- Nearly 92% of the victims died in an avalanche above 2000 meters altitude. Or almost always above or at the tree line.