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Summer pursuits in the outdoors bring their own host of prickly dangers, but at least we can breathe a sigh of relief since avalanche season is behind us. This season was particularly deadly — the deadliest on record, in fact: 36 people died in avalanche slides this winter in the U.S., and another 15 died in Canada. That’s 30 percent more than the average for the last decade.
Washington and Colorado tied for the highest mortality rate in the U.S. with 5 deaths each, but that pales in comparison to British Columbia, where nine people lost their lives in slides. The combination of above-average winter and spring snowpack and increasing numbers of backcountry and off-piste skiers probably converged to make this winter especially tragic.
Avalanche.org details each event, including the participants, nature of the burial, and who survived or was merely injured. The usual suspects — snowmobilers, snowboarders, skiers, and climbers — fell prey to avalanches the most, but a few incidents involved hikers and snowshoers.
Strangest of all, though, is the idea that avalanches can truly strike anywhere — even in the flat and therefore seemingly avalanche-free state of North Dakota. An unfortunate roof shoveler on a warehouse in Fargo was caught, buried, and killed by a rooftop slide.
That’s scary enough to make me want to wear an avy beacon to Florida.
— Ted Alvarez
Current season accidents (Avalanche.org)