Traveling Today — And the History of Pitkin Avalanches

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Heading out today on my European journey for the winter. Brutal schedule. Saves about $600 on the fare but involves things like a 10 hour layover and being on the plane to bring in the New Year. Oh well, the sacrifices we bloggers make to bring you the goods… Hopefully the Tyrolean beer will make up for it.

As blog fodder, check out our sad tale of local avy mayhem:

Our area leads country in fatal avalanches. List of fatal avalanches in Pitkin Country (Aspen area), Colorado

Above linked list includes things like what might be the smallest avalanche to kill a person, and an interesting preponderance of deadly slides in March. Another thing that struck me was the number of ski patrollers and guides on the list. The compilation misses listing a few accidents, but is still sobering. A few were friends or acquaintances and that’s had a big influence on my own attitudes. Definitely sad to read (especially when you know the tragic backstory behind those deaths that were easily preventable), but probably something to review once a year.

If anyone has personal knowledge of any accidents on the list, feel free to comment with your feelings, analysis, or details about what really happened.

Comments

6 Responses to “Traveling Today — And the History of Pitkin Avalanches”

  1. AJ December 30th, 2008 9:43 am

    have a good trip and a happy new year!

  2. Sean December 30th, 2008 11:05 am

    Hope you have a safe trip and fun in Europe. I’m looking forward to your reports like last year, including those shots of desserts that made me hungry and envious.

  3. Matt Kinney December 30th, 2008 5:02 pm

    Just a comment on AK stats which are somewhat open to interpretation. We are doing much, much better up here in recent years with further education and awareness provided through a number of areas such as forecasting by CNF(USFS) over in Girdwood for Turnigan Pass and efforts in a number of other areas of the state that have popped up in the past few years. Despite the dramatic increase in the number of ski and motor recreationist hitting the BC in Southcentral AK, we are doing pretty good up here considering the magnitude of the terrain, isolation and lack of comprehensive forecasting that other states have developed with a long history of snow data and such. Formal avalanche forecasting is only about 5 years old in AK. And frankly and honestly, we do have the expertise that other states have speciific to forecasting, but we are trying real hard without much help ($$) to educate and take care of ourselves.
    I think we are getting better, but it takes time and expereince, like other states, to develop a history of knowledge for particular areas of AK to give forecast credibility.

    The fact that Valdez has had only 1 fatality over 30 years is pretty amazing to me. But time will tell. Cluster events worry me as “skier days” pile up over years in a low volume area like Thompson Pass. Almost had a very large and close one here a few weeks . It is was a soloist /w dog in his 6th year of BC ski expereince (“26-yo male” equivalent statistically regardless of skier’s age). It was the biggest skier triggered slide I have ever seen here. I think it was predictable, though not expected. Lucky dude and mutt. Lots of close calls continue as attitudes seek the steep way more ofter than not. Nice thing about living here is that as a resident, one can afford to just wait a day, week or whatever it takes and go hit the gentler stuff in the meantime.

  4. Amos December 30th, 2008 7:05 pm

    The list would get a little longer if Fred Braun and Billy Tagert could speak from the grave!!! And I seem to remember reading a historic account of a catastrophic avalanche in Independence from the mining days. Have a good trip Lou, if you go the bar as soon as you land you may still be able to celebrate New Years on Colorado time, although you might be alone at the bar.

  5. Mark December 30th, 2008 8:37 pm

    Have fun in Germany. My own Europe trip involved a fifteen hour train ride from Paris to Prague. At least we had a sleeper car.

  6. JIM December 30th, 2008 10:48 pm

    Hi Lou,
    Have a great trip! Im a Colorado transplant who just got through your two excellent Fourteener guidebooks. Truly inspiring work! I just stumbled upon your blog and look forward to keeping up with you.

    Safe travels

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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