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ale_capone
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 4:57 am 
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I would say it's like russian roulette if you dont, read the avi and weather report, dont do any tests or pay attention to visual clues, and then just drop an avalanche prone slope. Otherwise, it's more like looking at the what you got, figuring out where the danger is, and not pulling the trigger if you arent sure.  You never see people ducking for cover when you wave a pow line in their face.

Edited to remove g word.
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Pahoehoe
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 5:39 am 
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But people dont.

Or they cant.

Sure, you are more likely than the average person your age to die on your bike in a crash or a car accident or a multitude of other ways than in an act, but if you just take people spending a lot of time in avalanche terrain in the winter?

I bet they are most likely to die in avalanche accident...
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ale_capone
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 6:15 am 
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Some can, some can't. Some do, some don't. Some are naive, some are complacent. For me, the human factor is the hardest part to figure out. Snow studies are easy, it would take a masters in psychology for the latter. You want to play russian roulette? Ski avalanche terrain with a new crew everyday.

I agree with you though. Chances are, do it enough and you are likely to get bitten by the dragon. Or see someone get bit. I kind of cashed my chips in on steep skiing for that reason. Good times, but odds arent in your favor. Somewhere the human factor will creep in.
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joker
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 8:31 am 
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Pahoehoe wrote:
But people dont.

Many people DO. Some don't. The article entitled Snow Fall in the New York Times described  some scary human factors leading up to the tragic death of three at Tunnel Creek. Perhaps any of us could be, in the wrong  moment, swayed by such factors to exceed the boundaries we've set for ourselves. But I've done a pretty good job of keeping my wimpy approach to backcountry ski tours rather than shifting into the "faster bigger further" mindset described in that article. ale_capone appears to have modified his approach so as to reduce his risk too. And  even those people going "further bigger further" aren't dying at anything like a 1-in-6 rate whether  you measure it per single outing (which would be most comparable to playing Russian Roullette) or across their lifetimes (which would be quite a stretch to see as Russian Roullette even with those obviously crappy odds of a 1 in 6 chance of having one's death eventually be due to avalanche).

Yes the odds are nonzero. There is no question there. And yes we fool ourselves if we think we can dial it down to zero while recreating in avalanche terrain (or driving across the  highway passes, or riding our bikes on the street). I think Randy shared some more interesting and useful comparisons versus the scaremongering image of Christopher Walton shooting himself in the head toward the  end of The Deer Hunter.
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Backpacker Joe
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 10:11 am 
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That's because young people are playing X-Box! tongue.gif

--------------
"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

Abraham Lincoln
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RandyHiker
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 10:26 am 
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Consider these statistics of how one might bite it

Cycling
https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/violence-injury-prevention/traffic-safety/bicycle-safety.aspx

Quote:
Unfortunately, bicycling is not risk-free. In fact, from 2013 to 2016, each year an average of 2 - 3 bicyclists died in King County and 42 were severely injured in collisions with motor vehicles.

Sking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling
https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/media.nwac.us/media/filer_public/fb/28/fb2861c8-c83a-450a-aecf-d4fd130eeab0/north_american_annual_avalanche_fatalities.pdf

Quote:
Last 5 years Washington State: 2.8 deaths per year

For this season there have been no skiing/snowshoeing/snowmobiling avalanche fatalities in Washington -- there has been single fatality -- from a roof avalanche on a resident.
The number of snowmobile fatalities has grown in the last decade as sleds have become more capable and "high marking" a popular pursuit.

Driving in King County isn't without risk either

https://patch.com/washington/seattle/wsp-king-county-traffic-deaths-down-58-2019

Quote:
KING COUNTY, WA Traffic deaths on King County interstates and state routes were down 58 percent in 2019, according to Washington State Patrol data. WSP said 20 people died in crashes last year, compared to 47 deaths in 2018. Those numbers do not include crashes on surface streets in city and county jurisdictions.

These raw numbers don't give the more useful fatality rate per 100,000 participation events.

However since this discussion has degenerated to comparisons to Russian Roulette with it's 1 in 6 fatality rate -- it doesn't seem that a precise understanding of the actual statistics will be persuasive one way or another.
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joker
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 10:35 am 
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On a semi-related note, I've  seen and also seen reports elsewhere  of a significant uptick of  people, who when I  see them they appear to usually be fairly  young, skinning uphill  at operating  ski areas during operating  hours.  When I've  seen discussion threads about this, often with old curmudgeons making fun of the practice, some folks who do it chime in explaining that they want the  exercise, the relative low cost  (lower than buying a lift ticket or  seasons pass), and the relative safety (versus the backcountry, though I do  wonder about risks of being hit by a downhill skier or boarder versus risks of being caught in an avalanche when following  good AIARE 1 type guidance...). So maybe some of the  young folks who aren't playing video games in their basements are simply getting out on skis/skins in avalanche controlled terrain.

But I think more to the point, with a sample size as small as the one in the study, a change from an average age of 27 to an average age of 33 (of the victims) is not statistically significant and so any conclusions we draw are more of a Rorschach ink blot test than they are meaningful  analysis. Still, describing what  we see in ink blots and cloud formations can be fun!    blah.gif
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Pahoehoe
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 4:25 pm 
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RandyHiker wrote:
Consider these statistics of how one might bite it

Cycling
https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/violence-injury-prevention/traffic-safety/bicycle-safety.aspx

Quote:
Unfortunately, bicycling is not risk-free. In fact, from 2013 to 2016, each year an average of 2 - 3 bicyclists died in King County and 42 were severely injured in collisions with motor vehicles.

Sking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling
https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/media.nwac.us/media/filer_public/fb/28/fb2861c8-c83a-450a-aecf-d4fd130eeab0/north_american_annual_avalanche_fatalities.pdf

Quote:
Last 5 years Washington State: 2.8 deaths per year

For this season there have been no skiing/snowshoeing/snowmobiling avalanche fatalities in Washington -- there has been single fatality -- from a roof avalanche on a resident.
The number of snowmobile fatalities has grown in the last decade as sleds have become more capable and "high marking" a popular pursuit.

Driving in King County isn't without risk either

https://patch.com/washington/seattle/wsp-king-county-traffic-deaths-down-58-2019

Quote:
KING COUNTY, WA Traffic deaths on King County interstates and state routes were down 58 percent in 2019, according to Washington State Patrol data. WSP said 20 people died in crashes last year, compared to 47 deaths in 2018. Those numbers do not include crashes on surface streets in city and county jurisdictions.

These raw numbers don't give the more useful fatality rate per 100,000 participation events.

However since this discussion has degenerated to comparisons to Russian Roulette with it's 1 in 6 fatality rate -- it doesn't seem that a precise understanding of the actual statistics will be persuasive one way or another.

Way more people ride bicycles than enter avalanche terrain and on a way more regular basis.

People bike year round.  Same with cars.

Compare the numbers to actual time participating and it would look different.
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RandyHiker
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 4:33 pm 
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Pahoehoe wrote:
Compare the numbers to actual time participating and it would look different.

It's apparent you didn't read or grok the last two sentences of my post.
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Pahoehoe
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 5:20 am 
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RandyHiker wrote:
Pahoehoe wrote:
Compare the numbers to actual time participating and it would look different.

It's apparent you didn't read or grok the last two sentences of my post.

Yeah.  That sentence pretty much negates your whole post.

With out a percentage or ratio comparision, numbers are meaningless.

I mean?  How many people ACTUALLY die each year playing actual Russian Roulette?  I bet less than die in car crashes.
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Cyclopath
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 9:09 am 
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Pahoehoe wrote:
Way more people ride bicycles than enter avalanche terrain and on a way more regular basis.

People bike year round.  Same with cars.

Compare the numbers to actual time participating and it would look different.

If you want to play this troll game of it's crazy because I don't do it and it seems dangerous, let's look at mountain bikers.  Those people cash more often than crit racers!  There are more surfers who don't smoke weed than mountain bikers who don't.  Sure you could wear a helmet but those people never do.  If you really to be a vegetable on a feeding tube, ride a MTB.

That's basically what you're telling people who actually ski, have decades of experience, and are educated in the topic of this thread.
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joker
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 10:07 am 
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I'm just surprised that he knows what the data would show even though it doesn't exist!
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gb
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 4:41 pm 
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The study doesn't say much because it is not related to the # of backcountry users. There are other reasons why older victims might be more likely; first a good proportion of victims are snowmobilers and snowmobiles are expensive, second it seems from being out that the most active age range is 30's to early 40's - that is even true at the Vertical World; perhaps people are having kids later.....

As to being knowledgeable, one needs to understand the basics of snow physics and can learn that through avalanche forecast details. That is educational in informing that you cannot know it all. To truly understand the snowpack one would have to have the ability to envision how the snowpack and all it's layers would look three dimensionally across terrain. No one is really able to completely do that.

There are times when it is obvious that either slides are not likely (as in spring conditions) or have no significant meaning as in a few inches of snow overlaying a strong pack.

There are times when it is obvious that avalanches are a major concern which would show in avalanche forecasts as it did in Washington around February 1st and in Canada about a week later (and is still happening in the Canadian central to north coast). Current NW Inland Avalanche Forecast - it is about consequences - hint look at the details

In between, it is a probability game (for which probabilities are not well-defined), and the key is using terrain such that high consequence situations are avoided. That is the best one can do. One thing I always pointed out in avalanche courses is that there is no reason to take risks in skiing or snowshoeing on ascent; just take the best route - which is what I've always tried to do when skiing unless certain as to low risk. Climbing is different in that there will always be terrain risk at some point so you just have to be choosy when climbing a particular destination. Skiing inherently has terrain risk on descent because of slope angles. Snowmobiling is yet more risky because snow machines weigh a lot and a lot of terrain is covered. Highpointing with a snowmobile is at the apex of risk.

After the extremely bad snowpack and accident year of 2003 in Canada, Frank Baumann and I developed at Telemarktips a two dimensional chart that incorporated (obviously) avalanche hazard on one axis, and on the other axis terrain elements and angles of terrain. That was adopted and modified by the head avalanche guy at Glacier National Park in Canada - I believe that was Grant Statham - and was soon adopted as the primary teaching element in Canadian Avalanche Association recreational courses. We spoke to this fellow at the ISSW in Bozeman (or maybe Jackson) and he confirmed this adoption. This terrain scale is the "Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale" and there are simple three level definitions for recreationalists and more advanced methodology recommended for guides. I haven't looked lately but I would think this is still used but likely modified.

This "Avalanche Danger Exposure Scale" was not difficult to roughly define because it represented the way both Frank and I saw things as longtime backcountry skiers. Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale

Our effort incorporated some information on slope angles, but nothing on glaciers.
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 6:41 pm 
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Interesting and useful video


Observe the apparent age of the presenter.
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Pahoehoe
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PostFri Feb 14, 2020 8:00 am 
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Just bury your heads in the sand and tell yourselves you are more experienced, smarter, stronger, better skiers, and make better decisions than those that die.  Better looking, too!

Remember Monica?  Franklin?  The leavenworth guys?  Riley?
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