This is an archive of the old forum

News | Gear | Ski Areas | Hiking | Mountain Biking
Powered by Google™
Swiss expert slams badly equipped off piste skiers
Posted: 02 March 2010 04:14 PM  
Total Posts:  38
Joined  2005-02-02

As winter draws to a close it is time for the Swiss avalanche experts to take stock. 24 deaths already this season, normally there are just 13 deaths at the same date. “It’s been a hard winter” according to Hans-Jürg Etter based at the SLF in Davos. The accident at Diemtigtal which killed seven people has had a big effect on the statistics.

A couple of factors have surprised Mr Etter, “It is the first time in ages that I’ve seen so many victims without avalanche beacons, I just can’t understand it”. Amongst the victims this year six were not equipped with a beacon. For Mr Etter a beacon, probe and shovel are a minimum for anyone going off piste and he notes that for young snowboarders, at least, having the right gear has become part of the standard accessories. The SLF says that at least 70% of people buried by a slide can be rescued alive if they have an avalanche beacon.

Head of training at the Swiss Alpine Club (CAS) Bruno Hasler thinks the trend is down to skiers and snowboarders being enticed off piste by powder. With the unstable conditions this season it has sometimes proved to be a fatal mistake. He notes in contrast that ski tourers are equipped with more and more sophisticated avalanche beacons. However Mr Etter has also noted increased risk taking by normally safety conscious Swiss ski tourers and is concerned that snow shoers (1 death so far this year compared to 6 in 2009) are not really aware that even the pre-alps can be dangerous.

[ Edited: 02 March 2010 09:57 PM by redac]
Posted: 02 March 2010 09:55 PM   [ # 1 ]  
Total Posts:  38
Joined  2005-02-02

Here are the Swiss stats:-

four of the people without beacons (or switched off) were Ski Tourers which kind of disagrees with the Swiss Alpine Club’s claim. Look at the number of ski tourers involved:-

(1 out-of-bound skiers, 2 out-of-bound snowboarder, 18 backcountry skier, 0 backcountry snowboarder, 1 snowshoer, 0 icefall climbers, 0 mountaineers, 1 rescuer 1 others)

France has the following breakdown

Ski Touring/Snowshoes 8
Off Piste 12
Climbing 5
Piste 1 - the Mont d’Olmes incident

That is a lot of climbing incident.s

Posted: 03 March 2010 11:46 PM   [ # 2 ]  
Total Posts:  6
Joined  2008-01-26

Wasn’t it only last year that we had that historical study of deaths + burials in Switzerland with the optimistic conclusion that the number of backcountry + off-piste users had increased greatly without a proportional increase of deaths + burials.
The obvious explanation was the long-term improvement in avalanche info + education.

Now we have one bad year and the experts have “discovered” that some backcountry + off-piste users did not benefit much from the info + education.

My prediction is this:
The number of avy deaths in each country will vary widely from year to year.

But two things will not vary from year to year:

(1) More experts will offer an explanation or “lesson” from what happened—More than the ...

(2) Fewer experts will point out that both avalanche risk and human skiers’ choices about it are fundamentally tricky and chaotic, so numbers should be expected to fluctuate widely.


Posted: 04 March 2010 10:46 AM   [ # 3 ]  
Total Posts:  58
Joined  2008-10-29

One mistake is to put too much emphasis on “averages” when the actual numbers you are dealing with are so low. It’s a bit like plane crashes. In absolute terms, the number of planes crashing vs number of successful flights in a year is so small, that all it takes is one 747 to come down and completely skew the numbers with regards to long term averages. The press will love it though with headlines boasting the “Deadliest aviation year in a decades!"… or “Has flying become less safe?"… And just basically feeidng on people’s fear and fascination of flight.

Though I have no idea how many ski tourers/off piste skiers practice their sport each day, I can imagine this number to be gigantic, especially when compared to the number of daily avalanche deaths (somwhere between 0.1 and 0.2/day in switz.). So having 6 out of 24 fatalities not wearing beacons is obviously cause for concern, but cannot be used to demonstrate a trend. The numbers are just too small to be taken seriously in any statistical concept. I’m a bit surprised to see such a comment coming from someone at SLF actually. But as with the plane crash example, the Swiss popular press has found a large emotional reaction from their readers to any article on this topic, and the more negative the news is, the better it is for them. ; ; ; (These sites will rarely say something positive about our sports because it’s not what their readers are looking for)

Posted: 10 March 2010 11:00 PM   [ # 4 ]  
Total Posts:  15
Joined  2009-12-27

Does anyone know how many people have lost thier lives from avalanches accross the Alps this year?

Posted: 11 March 2010 09:10 AM   [ # 5 ]  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

I’ve no idea across the whole Alps but I figure it must be over 100 in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Of course to put this into some kind of perspective 50 people died in floods in France in a single storm a couple of weeks ago, many due to badly zoned housing developments.