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dmuja

Avalanche Deaths This Season

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Fatalities this season in Wa (from what I gather):

 

Three snowshoeing caught descending slope fr snow Lake, 2 fatal.

Three missing snow boarding near Crystal, 3 presumed fatal.

Two snowshoeing caught in Edith Creek Basin, 1 fatal.

Five snowmobilers caught highmarking @ Excelsior Pass, 2 fatal.

Four "hiking" caught in vicinity of Lake 22 trail, 1 fatal.

 

9 deaths total.

 

No fatalities thus far have been categorized as "climbers".

 

Washington State presently leads the nation in avy deaths for 2007-08. (In a nutshell, we've got a cold, deep, weak snowpack this year - yikes!)

 

 

All of these folks were out in considerable or higher avy conditions according to the NWAC. Some of them could only have determined the avy danger level on their own (if they knew how) as they were camping out for multiple days. The snow boarders probably looked forward to finding the deep powder snow that often accompanies higher avalanche conditions because well, that's what boarders do. The snowmobilers were likely seeking avy angle terrain if not the deep powder. 4 out of 5 of the groups caught had at least one person who was "experienced" in winter bc travel. In three of the cases it has been noted that the parties were intent on traveling on the loaded avy angle slopes where they triggered the slide that caught them. (All gathered from published reports).

 

When the daily avalanche forecast danger level is rated as "considerable", this has historically been when the most avalanche fatalities take place. This is probably -Im guessing- due to the "human factor" as the objective danger posed at that level is quite manageable IF YOU KNOW HOW TO MANAGE IT.

 

"Managing it" may not only include choosing the safest possible terrain (which takes practice) but can also mean WAITING FOR LOWER AVALANCHE CONDITIONS.

 

People in and around the Cascades often want to get out and play in the winter - its one of the joys of living around here. BUT, many or most of those people probably don't have a clue about how dangerous those mountains can be when they get covered in winter snows.

 

 

 

Some Questions:

 

Why are some people apparently underestimating the danger of avalanches and thus mis managing their actions and dying because of it?

 

Why arnt some people "getting the word" and getting the needed edification?

 

What can be done to help educate/inform people about the hazards that are out there in the winter mountains?

 

 

I just thought somebody here might have some good ideas/proposals? Its pretty freakin sad this year, and kids are now dying too. Speaking as a parent, that really sucks.

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Perhaps more warnings via the local media outlets would be useful when avalanche conditions are high. Weather forecasts on the local TV stations always include plenty of information about anticipated snowfall and the stations devote attention to road conditions at the passes but how often do they announce that avalanche conditions are high and skiers, snowmobilers and the like should use extreme caution. I don't recall hearing them say such things that much.

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Iluka's idea is reasonable, but what is the demographic that "media outlets" cater to? A few years ago we had a cold snap and sudden snowfall in Seattle at the start of one morning's commute. The local TV talking heads were out on the street providing blow-by-blow coverage. One guy was stationed at a bus stop. He concluded his report by reminding viewers to wear a coat, hat, and gloves.

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Iluka's idea is reasonable, but what is the demographic that "media outlets" cater to? A few years ago we had a cold snap and sudden snowfall in Seattle at the start of one morning's commute. The local TV talking heads were out on the street providing blow-by-blow coverage. One guy was stationed at a bus stop. He concluded his report by reminding viewers to wear a coat, hat, and gloves.

 

Obviously their demographic is people like you.

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I am always amazed at how quick people are on this forum to pull out the sarcasm.

 

The thing all of us neophytes heading into the snow have in common is gear from outdoor shops right? Avalanche edumication comes from videos, discussion, books, papers, web pages, and classes. I think classes are the most affective by far, but some problems with them are that they’re expensive, not advertised well, are few and far between, long, and class sizes can be very limited.

I think you could get a lot of the basic information to people in a relatively short time if you could hit them at the gear shops. Especially if they’re renting BC skis or snow shoes! Okay, so the retailers offer a short avy class daily or weekly. But are you still missing the people that really need it? The people that THINK they already know what they need to know. How do you get to them? Could it be as simple as a flyer handed off with a purchases receipt? Can you sum up basic avalanche training on a one sheet of paper if you know that is their only chance to make the right decision?

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The people that THINK they already know what they need to know. How do you get to them?

 

Maybe you can't and they die.

 

You can't summarize avalanche procedures onto a flier - sorry America - it takes time and effort.

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The people that THINK they already know what they need to know. How do you get to them?

 

Maybe you can't and they die.

 

You can't summarize avalanche procedures onto a flier - sorry America - it takes time and effort.

Maybe that's what's on the flyer you hand them. Every avy class I took left me with the knowledge that I needed more avalanche training. I wouldn't propose that you could teach these folks everything they need to know, but a good stern warning to the dangers, where to get more information and some basic signs to look for could go a long ways. Better than doing nothing.

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Couple thoughts.

 

Seems to me that it might be helpful to distinguish between two types;

 

A) Those clueless folk with little or no avy information/education, but who may have had some amount of positive (lucky) experiences playing in winter mountain snow - ie, "the innocent."

 

B) Those overconfident folk with significant avy information/education and who may have had some amount of positive (lucky) experiences playing in winter mountain snow - ie, "the jaded."

 

In both cases, having a history of nothing bad happening (ie "negative feedback") might contribute to a complacent attitude to decision making.

 

The "jaded" have to start taking that (negative feedback) into serious account and plug that factor into the equation. They have to account for the fact that their experience may even be a hindrance rather than a help to good decision making. Im not sure how to get that message out to them more except through emphasizing that thru books and classes.

 

The "innocent" though might just need a shock type of warning (stickers/pamphlets?) as well a regular type of reminder like something daily in the news-weather report - maybe the daily avalanche rating for instance. Large warning stickers on gear? Handouts with gear purchases? These might be good I think if you could get the outdoor gear dealers to go along with scaring their customer base. 'Coarse hopefully they realize that a dead customer will not return to buy more gear either.

 

On the other hand, "human sacrifice" may just be in the cards in a society that demands "insta-grat experiences" without going through the natural learning curve. Beyond the tragedy, I hope that access doesn't start to get effected by all the carnage in the "evil dangerous" mountains.

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On the other hand, "human sacrifice" may just be in the cards in a society that demands "insta-grat experiences" without going through the natural learning curve. Beyond the tragedy, I hope that access doesn't start to get effected by all the carnage in the "evil dangerous" mountains.

 

Natural selection cannot be ignored.

 

 

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Well, I think I will contact the local news stations and climbing shops here in Portland to see what is being done now and talk about what improvements can be made.

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Perhaps we can add an avi deaths counter at the bottom of this page.

 

Well,

 

if your that curious about the number you can always check with--> http://www.nwac.us/ <--from time to time.

 

They have good education links there as well.

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Perhaps we can add an avi deaths counter at the bottom of this page.

 

why? from all I've gather none of the people caught yet participated in online circle jerks. Asking people here what should be done about reaching people in the following communities (hikers/snowshoers, snowmobilers, bc snowboarders) is like the priest asking the choir how to convert people - you are talking to the wrong people

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I'm only suggesting that we keep a running tally so that we can know in a moment how many people have died in avalanches this season.

 

VWNUM9.jpg

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I'm only suggesting that we keep a running tally so that we can know in a moment how many people have died in avalanches this season.

 

Why? If you can't pay attention and add for yourself you've no fucking business in avy terrain in winter.

 

Sorry America - you just can't dumb it down enough.

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Every ranger station I have seen has a caricature of Smokey the Bear with a sign that indicates what the fire danger is in the summer months. In essence, it distills various data in a meaningful and understandable way to the general public. Why not do the same thing for avalanche danger? Smokey could hold a sign in the winter that states the avalanche danger. The news meteorologists could also broadcast general avalanche conditions along with the weather forecasts.

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Just now listening to a public radio station. They ran a PSA that was primarily about driving challenges in the winter mountains. But twice in the announcement, they prominently mentioned avalanche awareness and once specifically said to be cautious immediately after a heavy snowfall.

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Five years from now...

 

You are required by law to have a Washington State

Avalanche Education Card, and you must carry it while recreating in snow covered areas. Your Certificate of Course Completion will be recognized by enforcement officers for up to 60 consecutive days while you await receipt of your lifetime Washington Avalanche Education Card. After the expiration date, it can still be used to apply for a lifetime card, but will not allow you to legally recreate in the mountains while you await receipt of your lifetime card.

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Unfortunately people with a lot of experience are often among those caught in avalanches. Education and experience are not enough protection. The one thing that keeps a person out of avalanches is the willingness to stay off the dangerous slopes when the danger is significant.

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...but a good stern warning to the dangers...

 

If I see one more stoo-pid warning label ANYWHERE, I'm gonna fill my trousers with my own shite! I appreciate what you're trying to accomplish by your suggestions, Mikester, but as HC says, it just can't be dumbed down any further/made any easier for the masses.

 

Contained within the literature of my last avalanche beacon purchase: WARNING - Wearing this device will not prevent avalanches!

Christ, how stupid do they think people are? Pretty stupid, I guess... :rolleyes:

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If I see one more stoo-pid warning label ANYWHERE, I'm gonna fill my trousers with my own shite!

Does this apply to the NWAC Web site? If not, why would putting the same information in the hands of more people via news casts or other outlets offend your sensibilities?

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I think it’s a great idea to give out a basic level of information that informs people that they may need to get more information and training if they are going to be in an avalanche potential zone. Especially if their next question is, what is an avalanche zone? Is it a dream? Yes, it falls on the ethics of the shop owners. If they aint already doing it, then they probably aint gonna start now...

 

On the other hand, I think it would be great if our local broadcasted weather reports gave a little more information about avalanche dangers when they exist. Not just saying there are high avalanche conditions today, but why and where, i.e., elevations and aspects for the mountain savvy. When the warnings come across the weather radio they take all of about 60 seconds. Coastal communities get wave reports for their surfers, same thing here. Makes sense to me that we all could benefit from that one. What’s the down side?

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