No avalanche fatality for Utah season

20th June 2017, by Abi Butcher

For the first time in 26 years, no skiers were killed in an avalanche in Utah

For the first time in 26 years, no skiers were killed in an avalanche in Utah

Improved avalanche information and awareness are being credited for Utah’s first avalanche fatality-free season in 26 years. For the first time since 1991, the US state has recorded its first ski season without any avalanche fatalities — for the past 26 years Utah has averaged four avalanche deaths per season for the past 26 years.

Mark Staples, director of the Utah Avalanche Centre told Powder: “It’s a big deal because every year we see more and more people in the backcountry. This means we have more people in avalanche terrain every year, but the same or even fewer dying. It’s safe to say the fatality rate is declining.”

The fatality-free season comes despite a winter of record-breaking snowfall, and Craig Gordon, a forecaster at the Utah Avalanche Centre said much of this was due to skiers and snowboarders becoming more aware of the risks — and better dissemination of information.

“There are all these different means people can use to access information, from Twitter feeds to Instagram, and being just a click away from a website that has helped immensely,” he told local paper the Standard Examiner. “Our great partnerships with the media have really helped to get our information out — it made avalanche awareness a lot more mainstream.”

Despite this record, there were 387 recorded avalanches across Utah this past season and heavy snow at times shut parts of the state. One avalanche on the Powder Mountain Highway even trapped a resort worker in his car — though he escaped unharmed.

Utah Avalanche Centre forecaster Graig Gordon also said the winter’s late start and varied snowpack had a big impact.

“That later start was really a bonus in terms of snowpack structures and stability,” he said. “We did not have a lot of pre-existing snow that grew week and sugary over time and lost its strength — that’s often what leads to a lot of early season avalanche close calls, near-misses and fatalities.”

Back to news

Recent news

Share |