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A Note Concerning Avalanche Involvement Statistics

It is unclear what percentage of avalanche incidents get reported. Those involving fatalities are generally reported and investigated. However, it is unknown how many non-fatal incidents go unreported.

Therefore any statistics involving only fatalities are accurate while any involving overall involvements should be assumed to be pessimistic by some unknown amount.

The same bias should also be assumed for number of reported avalanches. Many occur in the backcountry and are neither observed nor reported. Even within ski areas there may be unobserved avalanches in closed areas during storms or overnight.

Another factor to keep in mind is the larger context of the number of backcountry users. Most avalanche accidents today involve recreation. It is often pointed out that the trend of accidents is one of noticeable increase. However, the number of backcountry users in avalanche terrain and exposed to the hazard is also increasing rapidly. To adequately asses whether there is an increase or decrease in safety figures on backcountry use are needed in addition to figures on accidents.

So take all statistics with a grain of salt!

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