What's with all the skier deaths this season?

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What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Evren » Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:59 pm

Have y'all seen the number of on-piste deaths chronicled in the News section of this site recently? Is this just a function of me reading that section nowadays or is there some bigger trend? My new Rossi skis, for example, are so much more stable that I often find myself going quite a bit faster. After reading these, I reckon I should slow down even though I feel in control at all times. And maybe, even get a helmet. Though, that was reported to not reduce fatal incidents, perhaps due to the added confidence it inspires.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Admin » Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:17 pm

While I haven't reviewed the stats in detail compared with prior seasons, anecdotally it does indeed seem that this incidents are occurring with more frequency this season. However, if these incidents are indeed more frequent this winter I'd attribute it to two factors:

1. The sketchy snow pack across the western U.S, which combined with the above-normal snow pack in the Canadian Rockies would make fatal avalanches more likely; and
2. With regard to in-bounds skier deaths, more than the norm have featured such incidents as colliding with tree stumps, hitting head on a rock, etc., which would seem more likely with lower-than-normal snow depths. This would also possibly account for incidents involving a loss of control if the base was harder/icier than normal, etc.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby SkiandflyUtah » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:02 pm

Sketchy snow coverage may indeed be a factor but I'd be willing to wager that with the advent of Twitter, and other social media the rate hasn't increased as much as the dissemination of news about the fatalities has.

No clue how to research so "that's my story and I'm sticking to it!" :bow:
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby berkshireskier » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:46 pm

I was going to start this thread myself. I have noticed on the "News" section of FTO what seems like like an abnormal number of deaths or serious injuries being reported this year. It could just be that more of these incidents are being reported. But I'm thinking that maybe the poor conditions in both the Northeast and West are contributing to many of the on-slope injuries. One way or the other, it is a sad statistic and it makes you realize that skiing CAN be a dangerous sport.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:04 pm

IIRC the number of in-bounds US skier fatalities averages around 35 per season. So by the end of the year we should know if the number is abnormally high. I do know that high-speed-impact-with-fixed-object is by far the leading cause of the inbounds deaths.

My impression is that the inbounds number is fairly stable year to year. Backcountry deaths are more volatile due to some seasons having much more dangerous snowpacks than others.

If the season does not rally on the back end it will surely be one of the worst 5 overall in North America in my 35+ years of data, and worst 3 is a distinct possibility. The last overall bad season to this degree was 20 years ago, so it will be interesting to see the Kottke skier visit data also.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Evren » Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:55 pm

Now this, close to home:
Skier Dies at Solitude
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2012/02/10/skier-dies-at-solitude/

One factor here may be the heightened interest in skiing the side-country (or whatever you call inbounds-off-piste). Myself, I haven't touched that this season other than that glorious day two weeks ago at Snowbasin... and the day after that, at DV. The two incidents I had over the years were both in the trees and while minor, they both seared into my mind how quickly things can get serious on a mountain.
Last edited by Evren on Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Marc_C » Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:57 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:My impression is that the inbounds number is fairly stable year to year. Backcountry deaths are more volatile due to some seasons having much more dangerous snowpacks than others.

Utah averages 4 avi deaths per season. So far we've had 3.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby berkshireskier » Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:21 pm

I see on the "News" section of FTO that TWO more people have died skiing, one at Windham in NY state and one at Vail. UGH......NOT good news.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby EMSC » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:21 am

It definitely has the 'feel' of a higher death season. The Denver Post has some quick stats quoted from the NSAA that claims ~41 skier deaths per year inbounds for the US (outside of heart attacks, etc..). As Admin mentions in his latest article, Colorado is already at 11 deaths this season.

DP Article.
http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_19932308
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby soulskier » Fri Feb 10, 2012 1:58 pm

I'd say it's directly related to the low snowpack. Both in terms of unstable snowpack (shallower snowpacks are typically much less stable) and coverage. A line that someone skied last year is in way different condition this year in many locales.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:32 am

I'd say it's directly related to the low snowpack. Both in terms of unstable snowpack (shallower snowpacks are typically much less stable) and coverage. A line that someone skied last year is in way different condition this year in many locales.

True for backcountry/sidecountry, not necessarily for inbounds. Those sketchy inbounds lines are just skied by fewer people. I declined to ski a few at Jackson that I have skied in other seasons.

Denver Post wrote:Colorado set a record of 17 ski or snowboarding deaths in 2007-2008.

Which was the record HIGH snowfall season in western Colorado and above average elsewhere in the state. Remember most of these deaths are high-speed collision into a fixed object. More skier visits, more of those I suspect. I do think having a manmade hard surface in a lot of these areas that normally have soft natural packed powder could be a contributing factor.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby Admin » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:37 am

There were actually three more last week -- a skier at Mount Snow and a snowboarder at Jay Peak, both in Vermont, and a beginning skier who hit a lift tower at Terry Peak in South Dakota. I'm working those stories now.
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Re: What's with all the skier deaths this season?

Postby longshanks » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:45 pm

What is the Count now?
I have't visited FTO News for a while and just read a few headlines...dead people all over
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