Known for his strong opinions as well as his avalanche risk evaluation methods Swiss snow expert Werner Munter has spoken out following 12 avalanche deaths in 8 accidents over the last 5 days describing the incidents as "natural selection".
6 of the incidents involved off piste groups but the most serious killed 5 ski tourers in the Grisons. In each incident the avalanche risk was 3 on a scale of 5. For Munter the series of accidents "doesn't surprise me, nearly every winter, at the start of the season, there are big dumps on a rotten base. All that coupled with cold and wind. In these conditions we know the risk is high. In the days that follow there are a series of deaths and unfortunately things will only get worse. There is, firstly, ignorance about avalanches. Many people think that risk 3 is average because it sits in the middle of the 5 level scale! That level represents a third of the season and is in reality critical. You can still go off piste but only if you select a good route. And to do that you need knowledge. As for risk 4, which we saw in the Valais on Saturday and represents just 3% of the season, you can no longer judge the danger correctly. In those conditions you stay at home or on open ski runs"
Munter believes gear has an affect on risk taking "Beacons or airbags give the impression there is no risk. Modern skis that are wide and performant allow even mediocre skiers to ski slopes that before were reserved for the best." The Swiss guide thinks that training is the key "if it is oriented towards prevention. An ounce of prevention saves more lives than a pound of beeper training. Unfortunately that idea has yet to be accepted, especially in the French speaking part of Switzerland."
Werner Munter is known worldwide for his 3x3 and Reduction methods that give backcountry enthusiasts the tools to evaluate the risk on a chosen route but "in general a significant proportion of people are not interested. Those skiers want to keep throwing themselves onto whichever slope they want without having a bad conscience and they won't change. Snow had driven them crazy. The more it falls, the less they think. Half an hour after some ski areas are open and there are tracks everywhere! I deplore the culture of everything right away well known in the "selfie" generation. The mountain reminds those people that their wants are not the center of the world. If you persist in ignoring important rules or you are too thick to apply them, then nature will take you out. These accidents are natural selection."