An Analysis of Avalanche Accidents in France for 2007-2008

You may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet on the news front over the last couple of weeks. Don’t worry, we’ve got some great articles coming but we’ve also been crunching the numbers to produce our annual analysis of avalanche accidents for the last 12 months in France. 2007-8 was a good year in terms of the number of fatal accidents, the overall figure for deaths was only so high due to two very serious incidents involving climbers. However it was still an unusual season.


The winter months of January and February had very few fatalities. Most of the accidents happened at the start of the season and from mid March. Once again weather was a key factor with very stable, almost spring like conditions during the winter. The key points were

i. a large relative increase in the number of back-country (ski and snowboard touring, walking and snowshoeing) fatalities
ii. most of the groups were experienced
iii. all the ski victims were wearing avalanche beacons

While it is possible to put some of this year’s statistics down to the conditions, off-piste skiing activity has a great concentration during the main winter holiday months which saw very stable conditions, we believe that the move to more adventure skiing (climbing from ski lifts in search of fresh powder, ski touring etc) over the last five years has also had an role. The trend is towards well equipped and experienced victims who either do not have enough avalanche knowledge or are using their knowledge to take too much risk.

Read More Analysis of Avalanche Accidents in France for the 2007/2008 season - PDF format

Posted by davidof on Friday, 14 November, 2008 at 02:05 PM

Superb report .... !

I keep each years reports on my coffee table. Reading them once a week or so, throughout the season, keeps me very focused. Bit of a mute point for visitors, but it works for me!

I wondered if you had noticed any references to ABS Bags, good or bad, in official reports?

It’s very interesting to note the fatalities use of beacons in this years statistics and a specific reference to the quality of a shovel. It reinforces the urgency of locating victims in that ‘golden’ 3-5 minutes following an avalanche, to have any possible chance of survival and in my view, is a clear indication of the necessity of constant training in ‘Location and Digging techniques’.

Posted by  on  Sunday, 16 November, 2008  at 10:18 AM

Excellent report, thank you.

Posted by  on  Monday, 17 November, 2008  at 09:20 AM

Amazingly great report, David. Thanks a lot for doing all the analysis—and the careful writing that hits the key points but also tells the stories.

You’re right, last winter was very unusual—I still remember skiing all these big spring tours in February and early March.

I think another factor which will drive the long-term trend to more avalanche accidents on backcountry ski tours is YouTube videos . . .
I remember a video posted last year of skiing a great backcountry slope, and it looked great (and easy) in the video, but I knew what the overall conditions on that date, and I thought: I hope I get to ski that line, but on that day they were taking on more risk than I’m willing to accept.
But seeing it right there on video does make me tend to think, “If they can do it, I can do it”—which might be true (in excellent snow conditions).

But I need to guard against a parallel thought: “If they can get away with the extra avalanche risk, I can get away with it”.
Reading your report helps me guard.


Posted by  on  Tuesday, 18 November, 2008  at 01:33 AM

Should be compulsory reading for all visitors to French resorts. How about submitting a copy to all the resort tourist offices, with the suggestion that they print them off and leave for passers-by to pick up, along with the blurbs distributed by ‘Restaurant La Fondue’, etc? We would soon see where their priorities lie!!

Posted by frogblogger on  Friday, 21 November, 2008  at 10:46 AM
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