According to a Davos-based research team, nearly 2,000 people have died in the Swiss Alps from avalanches since record keeping began in 1936.
That number is absolutely astounding, especially considering that there have been approximately 901 avalanche death in the United States since we started keeping records in 1951. The study found that the most destructive and fatal avalanche incidents were naturally occurring and did not involve a skier or snowboarding triggering the slide. Those fateful incidents were work related and were tied heavily to road and tunnel projects through the dramatic and avalanche prone Swiss alps.
That said, when you take away the infrastructure related incidents, nearly 80% of the remaining avalanche fatalities were related to backcountry recreation– many of which were triggered by a single human being.
“The annual average number of deaths in avalanches in the Alpine region stands at 100, but here as well, the figures fluctuate sharply from year to year.” – SLF
On the bright side of this statistic, the dramatic increase in backcountry use over the last decade has not correlated to increased deaths. In fact, awareness and avalanche education opportunities have kept the numbers level with a noticeable drop in avalanche fatalities from the late 80’s to the early 90’s. That number has remained relatively steady since.
How To Stay Safe In Avalanche Terrain
- Seek instruction to learn about appropriate off-piste conduct and acquire the knowledge required to recognise avalanche prone locations,
- Obtain information about the current avalanche danger,
- Always carry avalanche emergency equipment, consisting of at least a transceiver, shovel and probe.
Find the entire study here: Number of avalanche victims Changes over 80 years