Imagine this terrifying scenario: You are at the top of a slope that just avalanched and buried three of your friends. Only you can save them. Their survival is up to you alone and the odds are very low because time is not on your side. A person has an 80% chance of surviving if dug up in 10 minutes. This rapidly falls to 20% at 30 minutes. Can you get all three to the surface in 15 minutes?
Mountain riding on snowmobiles has exploded in popularity over the past 15 years. Every winter more riders hit the backcountry in pursuit of steep faces and untracked powder. This type of riding increases the inherent risk of being caught in an avalanche. Over the past decade, 41 snowmobilers have died in avalanches in Montana - more than any other state in the nation.
The week of March 19 was a bad one for Central Asia. Heavy snow followed by a downpour of rain introduced their most widespread avalanche cycle in memory. Tajikistan, northern Pakistan and northern Afghanistan had avalanches hit roads and villages, many in the dead of night.
We just wrapped up our 22nd season of avalanche forecasting with 138 advisories. It was a busy, challenging winter and Mark Staples, Eric Knoff and I want to thank everyone for their support.
On December 31st, 2011 two people were killed in separate avalanches in the mountains outside of Cooke City, Montana. One victim was a skier; the other a snowmobiler and both were Montana residents.
By mid-January over 2,400 people attended one of our 35 avalanche classes. Grade school and graduate students, skiers and snowmobilers, search and rescue groups, ski patrols and businesses attended classes, all there for the same thing—to learn about avalanches. Regardless of the user group, during the Q&A sessions people asked similar questions. Here’s an attempt to answer the most common ones.
During the New Year’s weekend of 2011/2012, avalanches killed 3 people. Two of these fatalities
Avalanches are deadly. They kill more people on public lands than fires, lightning, floods or any other natural event. In the last 10 years 114 snowmobilers have died in avalanches in the United States. Triggering a slide can be terrifying. Getting caught is horrific. Digging out your partner is hell. Assessing snow stability is a difficult skill that’s never mastered. Like every avalanche forecaster I spend most of my days studying snow, yet I still sometimes get it wrong.