It is March 26 and avalanches during winter '14 -'15 caused 106 casualties already. Fortunately, we have seen that the numbers aren't going up as fast compared with the beginning of the season, but the season is not over yet as well... The lifts will run for at least five weeks in ski areas and a lot of riders will go touring in the next couple of weeks. many go in the coming weeks once their skins and tourski's the mountains. If you're going out there in the next couple of weeks: if you have no knowledge of the dangers in the backcountry, stay on the slopes! Do you have the knowledge? Be still aware. The avalanche does not know that you are an expert.
Is 106 fatalities a lot?
Hell yeah. To give you an idea of the numbers. During winter '13 -'14 we counted 80 victims all winter, winter '12 -'13 there were 113 victims, in winter '11 -'12 'only' 61 and in winter '10 -'11 eventually 75. So, we're already at 106. An overview of all the victims so far.
But isn't winter almost over?
No, the statistics are in general from September 1st to September 1st and in the summer months there are avalanche victims as well (think of the avalanche in Chamonix last summer). Remember that we are just at the start of the real tour season. In the coming weeks many people go into the mountains to go ski touring.
Which countries and regions had the most avalanche victims?
With as many as 30 victims France has the dubious honor of being number one. Particularly the Department of the Hautes Alpes (with ski resorts like the Serre Chevalier, Risoul and the famed tourski area the Queyras) has a hard time with no less than 13 fatalities so far. Then Switzerland and Austria follow with both 26 victims, followed by Italy (22) and Germany (2). Striking this winter are the two victims in the German Black Forest. Something you normally never see over there.
12 victims in Austria in the last six weeks
Striking is the number of victims that Austria saw the last 6 weeks. Pretty much almost half of the victims who lost their lives since February 10.
Who were the victims?
Almost 60% of the victims are tour skiers. As many as 65 tour skiers got killed by avalanches this winter. On the second position we find the so-called freeriders. Until now, there were 30 casualties among freeriders. Then there remain seven hikers (yes, winter walking is not without risk) and two professionals.
Wat valt er op?
In France, the number of tourskiers killed in an avalanche doubled compared with the long time annual average
A lot of tourskiers were out there alone
A lot of victims were riding without an avalanche beacon
The number of hikers killed by avalanches is higher than normal
Yes, it is a sport with risks. Not like playing soccer in a conditioned environment, and you decide for yourself how far you want to push yourself. Fortunately, with the right knowledge you can reduce the chances that you get into an avalanche to 1%. The choice is yours.
Is there always an avalanche risk?
Yes, if there is snow in the mountains, there's always a risk of avalanches. I hear more and more people say that avalanche danger 3 is very dangerous. Well, let me make something clear... without knowledge avalanches 1 and 2 are very dangerous as well. Even with those risks there are fatalities. And the bad news is that avalanche danger 0 does not exist.
If you go to the Alps the next couple of days, be alert. Check your local daily avalanche bulletin, make sure you have the right gear with you and that you have the right knowledge. No knowledge? Are you not sure? Say no to off piste!
But I stay close to the lifts and slopes
Sweet dreams, sweet dreams.
You can get into an avalanche next to the slopes