Snow and Avalanche Center 2009 Avalanche News

Skiers better prepared for avalanche risk

Dec 28, 2009 - 11:12

Avalanche experts say better gear and improved awareness have led to a drastic reduction in the number of people killed each year by avalanches.

Switzerland’s Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) said statistics for the latest ten-year period show that around 40 per cent of people caught in avalanches die. At the end of the 1970s, the figure was around 60 per cent.

Christine Pielmeier of the SLF said off-piste skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers are better equipped nowadays, are more likely to inform themselves about local snow conditions and know how to react to free colleagues trapped in an avalanche.

Between 1977 and 2006 nearly 3,500 people were caught in slides in the Swiss Alps. More than 700 died. While 27 people on average were killed each winter over the first 15 years, only 20 a year died in the second half of this period.

The decrease is also remarkable since, the SLF said, tourists are more likely today to leave marked ski slopes and hiking trails.

The SLF recommends that people going off piste be equipped with emergency gear such as shovels and transceivers. Equally important is knowing how to use them, it said.

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