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Skier killed April 11 in Snoqualmie Pass avalanche remembered as ‘true educator’
The 2016-2017 avalanche season is not over, by any means, although avalanche centers in Montana have stopped issuing daily advisories for the season.
Following up on this morbid topic, I looked up this year's avalanche fatality statistics: http://avalanche.state.co.us/accidents/us/
I was surprised to see this year's statistics, 12 fatalities to date, are way below the mean, or average, for the past 20+ years, as was the 2014-2015 season, with only 11 fatalities. This year's total surpassed 11 only due to inclusion of an April 1st "roofalanche" that killed a 4 year-old in Alaska. I think that's a tragedy, but I question the possibly misleading inclusion of that type of fatality in the national avalanche statistics. This is not the first "roof" avalanche fatality included in the statistics, but I am sure other US fatalities caused by snow sliding off roofs (i.e. in Massachusetts) have been excluded in the past . in 2010, 2 people were killed in Colorado by this:
But the inclusion of "roofalanche" fatalities draws attention to the difficulty of categorizing statistics for analysis. Not that long ago, in my lifetime anyway, snowboarders and snowmobilers were added as new categories of backcountry users involved in avalanche accidents. The past couple years have seen the first fatalities of bicycle riders.
Its difficult or impossible to "normalize" the fatality statistics due to the absence of hard numbers for backcountry use.
"There is no way to determine the number of people caught or buried in avalanches each year, because most non-fatal avalanche incidents are not reported." http://avalanche.state.co.us/acciden...and-reporting/
It's also impossible to compare the total number of avalanches from one year to another, whether natural or human triggered.
Was this season just a "safer" snow season, with fewer opportunities for human-triggered avalanches, or is public safety avalanche education and outreach really working?
Anecdotally, in my experience, there has been an encouraging trend of backcountry users in the Presidentials recently acquiring safety equipment and formal education, though I still meet an alarming number of novices on the hill without any clue what avalanche terrain even looks like.
Avalanches account for only a small percentage of backcountry fatalities in the Presidentials and the White Mountain National Forest. There are many other hazards with less-glamorous keywords and hashtags that will kill you with (almost) no warning.
Anyone who loves the mountains as much as Morgan Miller learns about all of these hazards, but doesn't stay home, sitting on the couch.
"The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau