The allure of fresh powder, the glamour of steep couloirs, and the serenity of skins swooshing on snow are drawing more and more adventure-seekers into out-of-bounds terrain each season. Traffic in the backcountry is soaring exponentially and it’s easy to get caught in a false sense of security when you have 4G on the skin track and you can’t go out for a dawn patrol without running into a few people you know. As the volume of Type II enthusiasts climbs each season, it’s important to remember the importance of solid avalanche education, because the best gear in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to use it. Winter is upon us, so here are a few stats to get your brain warmed up as you get ready to head out into the backcountry.
Total avalanche deaths in Colorado since 1950. Colorado has the highest rate of avalanche deaths in the United States, with almost double the amount of any other state.
Slope angle that avalanches are most likely to occur on—these are also conveniently the most fun slope angles to ski. Lower angle slopes seldom slide and slopes steeper than 50 degrees slough often enough that they rarely create slabs.
Miles per hour an avalanche can reach as it gains mass.
Pieces of equipment that make up the backcountry survival trio. While there are many other pieces of gear you should have with you in the backcountry, your beacon, shovel and probe are three things you should always carry.
Minutes you have to dig out a victim with a 93 percent survival rate. This number drops down to 27 percent after 35 minutes. This number does not include victims killed by trauma.
Hours in AIARE’s new Avalanche Rescue course. New for the 2017-2018 season, AIARE separated the companion rescue portion to free up valuable time in the Level 1 course for more in depth preventative education. The Avalanche Rescue course is for beginners and experienced backcountry travelers to practice and develop their companion rescue skills. avtraining.org
Average number of avalanche deaths per season in North America over the last 10 years.
February 3, 2018
Date of Arapahoe Basin’s 16th Annual Beacon Bowl. Think you’ve got your beacon search down? A Basin organizes a beacon search competition, demonstrations, and a legendary beach party in the name of safety.
Cost to attend a one-hour Know Before You Go class. While not a substitute for formal avalanche education, KBYG’s avalanche awareness presentations offer useful information to those new to backcountry travel as well as a nice pre-season refresher for those well-versed in snow safety. Find a class near you online at kbyg.org.
ONE HUNDRED AND NINE
Number of American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) course providers in the US. AIARE provides standardized curriculums for all experience levels of backcountry travelers, from novice to professional. Sign up for a course and get educated at aiare.info/providers_list.php.
Percent of avalanche accidents triggered by the victim or someone in the victim’s party. Your terrain selection is the only factor you can control out there, so smart decision-making and communication is extremely important.