Avalanche Victims on the Rise

Avalanche Stevens PassAn avalanche took three skiers lives on Sunday at the Stevens Pass Ski resort, about 90 miles northeast of Seattle. One of those killed in the avalanche in Washington was Jim Jack, the head judge of the Freeskiing World Tour.

He was skiing with a group of 13 people of which, all were buried in the snow to some extent.  King County Sheriff’s Sgt. Katie Larson said, “The men who died, were swept approximately 1,500 feet down a chute in the Tunnel Creek Canyon area.”  Those 13 people in the group, were all professional skiers and ski journalists and very well known to the Steven Pass Ski Resort area. It goes to show, the snow doesn’t care how experienced you really are.

Mark Moore, an avalanche meteorologist and director of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center said, “The snow doesn’t really care how experienced you are, it’s not keeping track of experience level. Once you’re in an avalanche, it has you at its mercy.”

In the United States this winter, avalanches have killed six people in Colorado, four skiers, a snowboarder and a snowmobiler; three in Utah, two snowboarders and a snowmobiler; three in Montana, two snowmobilers and a skier; one in Wyoming who was a skier; and the four on Sunday in Washington, three skiers and a snowboarder. In Canada, there have been four deaths, all in British Columbia.

So far, 17 skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers have been killed with more than two months remaining in the most active avalanche time of the year. The New York Times took it by the numbers and reported, “Although that number projects only marginally higher than the national average of 28.8 deaths a year over the last decade, and perhaps closer to the 36 in 2009-10, increasingly those who put themselves in harm’s way seem not to be careless novices, but rather, experts pushing the limits of safety.”

Statistics show that 93 percent of avalanche victims can be recovered alive if they are dug out within 15 minutes after the avalanche, but the numbers start to drop as time goes by. According to the Utah Avalanche Center, after 45 minutes, only 20 to 30 percent of avalanche victims are alive. After two hours, only few survive. People die because their carbon dioxide builds up in the snow around their mouth and they quickly die from carbon dioxide poisoning.

Benj Wadsworth, executive director of the Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center told ABC News, “People need to look at the avalanche forecast. When it’s considerable or above, if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t go. If you do go, make sure you take a class. To go out there without some level of avalanche education, I think it’s crazy.”

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