An unfortunate aspect of avalanche safety is that being involved in the industry and knowing what you’re doing is no guarantee. Fact is, if you’re in that group you’re out hundreds of days in an environment where deadly hazard is sometimes inches from a safe zone. Or, the right decision is a few neurons from the wrong idea. Or, bad things can just, happen — to anyone. We don’t know the details of Oregon Avalanche Center director Kip Rand’s fatal accident this past Tuesday, but we do know he was committed to avalanche safety along with truly knowing what he was doing. Thus, while offering our sincere condolences to his family and friends, we’ll take a few moments of silence today in honor of him and all the others who’ve died while involved in helping the rest of us stay safe. Official details here.
I’m reluctant to keep the bad news going, but recent accidents in Austria are extra sad — and worth noting. Two guides with beacons, one with a balloon pack, die in slides. Then another guy skiing by himself without a beacon gets buried and lives. A lesson in there somewhere. Report here, use Google translate.
Speaking of solo backcountry skiing, Check out this study that shows traveling in small groups or solo is safer. We knew that small groups tend to be better, but solo? The authors state “…We found higher avalanche risk for groups of 4 or more people and lower risk for people traveling alone and in groups of 2…The relative risk for people traveling alone was not significantly different compared with the reference group size of 2…”
In my opinion this is a fairly significant study and supports something I’ve been observing for years: In popular touring areas such as the Alps and Utah Wasatch it is common to see solo skiers, but you rarely hear of them getting into trouble. Could it be that traveling solo inspires so much extra caution you’re actually safer than anyone else out there? Could be. Human nature is an ever convoluted mystery.
Now for some good news (at least for her, though I’m already lonesome). Mrs. WildSnow took off this morning like a jet fighter pilot, heading up to Montana of all places for the Yellowstone Women’s Backcountry Ski Course. She drove our giant Chevy truck so she’d fit the rancher enabled parking slots in Wyoming and Montana. I saw the DPS Wailers and Volkl BMTs jutting out the side window and heard a Cripple Creek Podcast already playing (it’s a 10 hour drive). Will the gal return, or file a few blog posts? Stay tuned.
Kate Middleton gets slammed by PETA for skiing in the wrong gloves? Seriously? Next thing you know they’ll be tearing my wool undershirt off and making me ski shirtless as punishment for not wearing petroleum base layers.
To continue, will being towed by a Jaguar sportscar result in the fastest human on skis? Is this guy channeling Evel Knievel? When I read he’s also using jet packs and an “Iron Man suit” I was convinced. Stay tuned!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.