Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
Most of the details are in on this one. Check here. I found this accident to be particularly tragic and appalling. It is another example of how tough it can be to spread a group out enough, and thus expose only one person to hazard. On top of that, you couldn’t have a more experienced party — they were all ski patrollers! And the photos in the report hit close to home as the trees they presumably used as a safe zone were similar to the trees on many outcrops and ribs that I use as “safe zones” myself, but would be no help if a larger slab fractured above (as in this case).
As always, the key with this sort of avalanche terrain is to spread out farther than is perhaps socially acceptable. Using small two-way radios could help with this. Anything but having everyone get ‘lanched at once.
While reading through the Sierra incidents, I found it interesting how the bulk of the fatal accidents involved groups where the avalanche swept away all or most of a party. Some Sierra skiers I know are quite nonchalant about their avalanche safety procedures while on their home turf — with good reason as they’re usually traveling on bomb proof snow. But could those attitudes have something to do with the number of group accidents we see in the incident reports?
And least I sound like I’m singling out the Sierra, many avalanche accidents around North America involve more than one person being caught in the same slide. It’s an alarming trend that avalanche safety educators should pay more attention to.
Message to ourselves: Stomp Rutschblock till we’re blue in the face, but put some energy into proper travel procedure as well.
Lastly, the grumbling masses are saying they’d like to see more details in the avalanche reports, such as what gear people were using, whether releasable bindings helped, how equipped they were for first aid, etcettera. I’ll add my voice to the grumble.
Open for comments.