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What is risk of avalanche death off-piste?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

The odds of being in a fatal accident are 1/4545, that doesn't lead to the conclusion that 1 in 4545 will die


So what are the odds which lead to the conclusion that 1 in 4545 will die?

I'm confused Very Happy
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
In answer to the OP if you invest in edumacation first and go with people who know what they are doing e.g. paid guides (& actively ask them about their decision making) then you are significantly mitigating risks. Of course even pros make mistakes and snow science is not a perfect predictor.

The reality is there are different risk levels of off-piste and in order not to be like the idiot seasonnaire party in St Anton last week you should know the difference. Maintaining good discipline even in low risk situations is good training though.
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Axsman and Richard_Sideways, you are both completely missing my point.

Firstly, there is no way that on an average day when 45,450 skiers are skiing in a ski resort that an average of ten of them will die in car crashes before they reach the resort. Sorry, driving isn't that dangerous. I don't know what your statistics mean, you don't seem to either!

Firstly (b) my point is that in fact given long enough every skier would die in a car crash. Without defining the period in which 1 in 4545 will die you don't have a statistic at all!


Secondly, my use of "every" in the above statement "of every 4,545 skiers driving to a resort" means that I am writing about a rate of death; I have not written (though Richard_Sideways seems to think I have) that if 4,545 skiers drive to a resort then one will die. There is a subtle nuance in my writing which means we agree on the operation of statistics, though not in the use of English.

Very Happy
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Quote:

Interestingly enough, neither do the experts, at least not with certainty. Most of the avalanche deaths reported in Austria this year, and probably every year, have been locals with excellent knowledge of the area they are skiing, the risks etc etc.

It is great to get so many excellent replies. A lot of snowheads have advised very sensibly to get avi trained / equipped, assess the risk, always go with guide etc., and this should be always the case IMO.
However, not to miss the point of the original question - it must be remembered that in many or most cases of avalanche deaths, all these precautions have been taken. These skiiers just had incredibly bad luck. That can happen to any of us at any time. We hear many stories of blasts failing to set off an avalanche, 10 skiiers ski down safely, then the eleventh skiier gets buried. I am not sure expert guides who get killed always made an error of judgement, many times they were probably just SOL. So, with all the precautions taken, we are still left with a risk, and the question is how small or big is this risk is.
The estimate of 0.018% is around 10 times lower than my very crude estimate. Has anyone else got any way of estimating?
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patricksh wrote:
So, with all the precautions taken, we are still left with a risk, and the question is how small or big is this risk is.
The estimate of 0.018% is around 10 times lower than my very crude estimate. Has anyone else got any way of estimating?


Why do you ask and how would you use the answer ?

It's just that it's going to be pretty meaningless when applied to judge the risk of a specific future situation.
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This is rather sad news, today Obertauern, Salzburg a member of the avalanche patrol team was taken and killed by an avalanche whilst assessing the avi risk during an inspection. Was found within 15-20 mins via beep but was too late. Very wet snow, estimated snow weighed 2.5 tonnes per cubic metre, victim found under half metre of snow.
Just shows even complete avalanche experts can get caught out. No mention of ABS bag, would have thought guys out there everyday assessing avi risk would have ABS.

http://www.nachrichten.at/nachrichten/chronik/art58,829670
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waynos wrote:
Very wet snow, estimated snow weighed 2.5 tonnes per cubic metre


The snow must be made of lead in austria
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Snow isn't heavier than water.

Quote:
Water Pure 1000 kg/cubic metre
Sea Water 1026 kg/cubic metre
Snow, freshly fallen 160 kg/cubic metre
Snow, compacted 481 kg/cubic metre


Lead is heavier than 2500 kg/cubic metre at 3700+ kg/cubic metre

http://www.simetric.co.uk/si_materials.htm
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Op get on eBay and buy yourself a copy of "staying alive in avalanche terrain" very interesting and informative book. Will demystify the risk for you. Applying what you learn, taking heed of avalanche warnings and engaging guides then whatever the risk is you will significant reduce it (but never eliminate it unfortunately)
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Almost every pro/ experienced user who survives an avalanche admits they made some mistakes on the day in question so I'm not sure blind luck is really that much of a factor. It is if you get freightrained by a slide from above taking out an open piste but those incidents are thankfully very rare.
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To the OP,

I think this is very tricky thing to estimate - clearly its not just people in guided groups that get caught in avalanches. What proportion of avalanche victims were in guided groups? Who knows...

I'm also not sure what you would do with the information. I mean to you have in minds a % risk of death per week that you would find acceptable?

My feeling is that if you are reasonably cautious or go with a professional then the comparison with the risk from driving is about right. Just a feeling though. I've met one person in my 25 years of sking who subsequently died in an avalanche and he was a serious (and high risk) off-piste skier (had lived in chamonix for four years - summer and winter, working in order to ski and climb).

Incidently, I think it perfectly possible that a guide could lead a party to their death in an avalanche and not have made a mistake. Sound odd? Well my point is this - no avalanche risk management techniques can reduce the risk to zero. There is always some risk that you have to accept if you are going to ski. A professional could assess a slope, correctly, as very low risk only to be very unlucky...

Some risks seems more acceptable than others. I suspect car accidents are the biggest threat to all of us but we tolerate that. I knew a couple who would not get on a plane together unless all their children were with them. Their logic was that in event of plane crash, they wanted a parent to survive for the children. If the children died with them - no issue. You can sort of see their point but I know that they got in cars together wiothout the kids which had all the same issues.

J
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adie wrote:
This is fear of fear, yeh you might die, but hey you probably wont.

Just accept that everything in life has an associated risk and if your comfortable with that crack on. The perception of risk levels and society's response to them opens a whole can of worms.

For example as a society we accept a significanly larger number of deaths in car accidents than we do from trains or planes.....go figure.


The problem in this situation, is that most people who ski off piste have no idea of the risk. The absolute risk, ie the number of off-piste skiers who die in avalanches as a proportion of all skiers, is very low, but unless you know how to judge that risk on a given slope on a given day, you launch forward into the powder in almost complete ignorance. Plenty of posters have made good suggestions as to how the OP might reduce the risk, and he would be wise to follow their advice. But simply to say, "The overall risk is low, it's probably never gonna happen" misunderstands the huge variation in risk, and what can be done to reduce it. I hope you continue to be lucky, but I'd prefer it if you tried learning a little more about avalanche risk assessment.
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patricksh wrote:
Question I have is: what are the odds - for someone who say does 5 or 6 half day classes of complete off-piste in a week, of being seriously injured or killed in an avalanche in the course of the week, assuming "average" conditions etc. (risk 3 say) ?
I have been fretting about the above part of patricksh's question. I feel worried about the idea of "average conditions". Clearly 3 is the middle number of a scale from 1 to 5, but is it in any useful sense "average"? It would be possible to record the avalanche risk for a resort for every day of the season and average those values. But would that be useful? As holiday skiers, many of us only ski for a week or two per year. So should we average the reports for the same dates on previous years? But every year is different. I cannot work out any useful measure of "average avalanche risk conditions".

As a holiday skier I look at the reports and at the slopes where I ski but mostly I pay a professional to guide me to interesting snow and terrain in places he believes are safe to ski and are compatible with my skiing ability. The notion of "average risk" never crossed my mind.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Chamcham wrote:
Plenty of posters have made good suggestions as to how the OP might reduce the risk, and he would be wise to follow their advice. I hope you continue to be lucky, but I'd prefer it if you tried learning a little more about avalanche risk assessment.


Nanny really is out in force today. Smile

OP has already stated he will be going with a guide/instructor. He just wants to know what sort of risk he is taking. So adie's statement is very sensible in that context. There is a risk, you just have to accept it - and certainly you can learn to double check your instructor's suggestions, but a 6-morning into to off piste course probably isn't going to take you to such places.

patricksh wrote:
Question I have is: what are the odds - for someone who say does 5 or 6 half day classes of complete off-piste in a week, of being seriously injured or killed in an avalanche in the course of the week, assuming "average" conditions etc.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
It's very, very, very dangerous going off piste. Do not do it. Save yourself now.






(this way there are less tracks for me to worry about)
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Axsman wrote:
Steilhang, the full quote from the article is:

"Nobody seems to know how many people are backcountry skiers, but the ski industry reports $139 million of backcountry gear sold in 2007. Let's be generous and assume that each backcountry skier spent $1000. One can interpret this to mean that there are 139,000 backcountry skiers in the US.

On average over the past 10 years, the US has had 25 avalanche deaths each year.

25 avalanche deaths/139,000 backcountry skiers = about .018% chance of dying in an avalanche. (That's .00018)" I typod it in my requote to 0.00018% rather than 0.018% - Apols now corrected Little Angel

Did it assume all those 139,000 skiers only gone out 1 day since they bought the equipment?

Or assuming all of the them going out about some "average" number of days?
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Question I have- what do they mean by backcountry gear? Does that include e.g. Helmet?
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patricksh, oh you tease!
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patricksh, I think you need to look at other things you do and risks you take, the pleasure you get out of skiing, that t you might get from off piste skiing and your general attitude to risk to make decision.

Since you ask the question I'd guess that you and your wife are fairly risk averse and probably don't spend every otherFriday at 5pm BASE jumping off bridges over the M62 trying to land on the central reservation....

But do you do any other risky things for a laugh- or let your children do slightly risky things for fun- like horse riding, or going round to a friend's house with a pool?
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I am extremely risk averse. But also very pragmatic (I think so anyway). I also like to think I am not afraid, and fear is not what limits me. A week skiing is the best week of the year, but when that is spent off-piste it brings it to a whole other level. I have no problem forking out on guides. I am not nervous on planes because we can work out the odds. I just don't have a clue what the odds are in the mountain and you hear so much conflicting stuff.

Put it this way, I think a >1% chance of death is too high for me, you'd probably be fine but its just not worth it. You can still have a great week on piste. A 0.018% risk I would do.
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patricksh, Good attitude - enjoy your week! (and drive safely wink ) Toofy Grin
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It don't take much to learn a bit about assessing the risk for yourself. I'm not necessarily talking about digging pits etc., more about the "forecasting" side of things. You'll generally always know or find the local official forecast, but then a bit of knowledge about which aspects will be the highest risk within a given forecast and WHY (recent weather etc), then you can add to the confidence of your cutoff point for going out at all and your route/terrain choice if you do go out
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What about asteroids? More likely on piste or off?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/shortcuts/2012/feb/29/asteroid-625-1-chance-hitting-earth?INTCMP=SRCH
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nozawaonsen, easy. Off, definitely. Question is are you more likely to be hit by one on piste or off?
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patricksh, How old are you?

Just being alive as a 40 year old man means you are taking a significant risk that you won't make it to 41.

Look skiing off piste with a guide 1 week a year as a reasonably good on piste skier is not a really risky thing to do.

Might be different if you were a very very good skier looking to ski very steep slopes, very technical routes.

I think th odds aren't the issue it is he acceptability off death in pursuit of happiness that is the issue (needless, irresponsible, 'I'd never forgive you', 'how selfish' 'avoidable' type stuff). I do hope you don't eat cream cakes or drink more than 21 units per week (or more than 5 units per session).
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http://www.wat.tv/video/telesiege-detruit-par-avalanche-4wvih_2i6xp_.html
there seems to be a risk onpist too rolling eyes
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freeheelskier, amazing video. Glad no one was hurt!
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Not sure that stats have much to do with it, after all everbody dies sooner or later.
Its not a tragedy to die doing something you love.
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http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Avalanches/French-Avalanche-And-Off-Piste-Accidents-2008-2009

all the avalanche deaths in France 2009-2009.

off piste skiing (opposed to touring) there were 8.

How many weeks skied off piste?? a might more than 8000! So NOT 1 in 1000 weeks at risk.
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That is truly a very good point to separate off-piste from ski tourers.

Would 8 off-piste skiier deaths be the average or was that a low year?

2 questions: 1. Roughly how many skiiers spend the most of a week off-piste each year in France? Do any ski-head snow instructors have an estimate?

2. What exactly is definition of ski-touring? What is distinction between it and simple off-piste?

No need for any posts asking "what does it matter?" As I have already decided that if risk is 1/1000 that is low enough for me. Seems risk probably lower than that but wud still be interested to know answers
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Settling on a rate / risk score based on previous events, without ranking/rating objective hazards and adjusting you behaviour accordingly is bad ju ju. Is it 1/1000 on a cat 4 day on a cat 4 aspect? Risk is better mitigated than rationalised
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Sorry I know I'm being a tad rude but please patricksh, just try and think a little before asking such an inane question....such as.....

"2. What exactly is definition of ski-touring? What is distinction between it and simple off-piste?"

I've stayed away from this thread, as I think the OP was a wee bit puerile (there I go being rude again) but a few good points have been made....

I can't claim to be an expert, especially with my track record over the last couple of years, skiing off a cliff (did not know it was there) and being helied off last year (fecked ACL whilst ski touring) - I do ski tour a lot on my own, but will assess the conditions well in advance, and stay well away from anything too obvious and not get too hooked on getting to the "summit" as quite often the last 100m can be far more dangerous.........

I have over the years (maybe) seen my good friend, a guide, just (maybe) taking the cautious route a little more, in his words " better to have live chickens than dead clients" - this me thinks brought on by him having a young family now..........

And sorry, patricksh maybe you do not know sincerely why, as ski tourers we climb up the "hill" with skins on so we can not ski away easily should a slide occur, - so we are far more exposed - we can, if we are in a group spread out, so only one or two of us might get taken out and the others can help find us - sort of damage limitation.

I think I'm in far more danger when I venture back on the piste though...

Anyway this link http://www.anotherharddayattheoffice.co.uk/serrechevaliersecondweek.html shows that I just don't type bollox I actually do it wink
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There was an avalanche on piste in Zermatt last week, I assume due to the freakishly high temperatures. Not sure whether it had happened spontaneously and the pisteurs were bombing the rest down or they had noticed the unstable snowpack above the piste and were bombing the whole lot down. In any case the piste was closed, but it appears some people had ignored the closed signs and had to walk back up again (we saw all this from the gondola above).

I think skiing whether on piste or off piste carries a certain amount of danger anyway, aside from the avalanche aspect. Just the same as my other hobby, motorcycling, carries a certain amount of danger. I enjoy both activities and I'm prepared to take the risks. However, I choose not to smoke or drink large quantities of alcohol which to me are both far riskier.

Life is dangerous. You weigh up the pros and cons of each risk and decide appropriately. Or you live your life in a big fluffy bubble taking no risks but end up dying of cancer anyway.
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patricksh, Explore the http://pistehors.com/ site - there are annual reports & analysis for several years past and they make interesting reading. They also go some way to hint at why deciding whether ski off piste based on the 'average' odds of death is not a great way of making that decision. The actual 'risk' changes from day to day, season to season depending on conditions for that Winter.

Here you go:
http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Avalanches/Accident-Statistics

and

http://pistehors.com/news/ski/comments/1031-avalanche-analysis-for-2010-2011/

http://pistehors.com/news/ski/comments/1002-review-of-french-avalanche-incidents-for-2009-10/
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James the Last wrote:

BTW, 0.022% chance of death is 1 in 4,545. Does that mean that if there are 45,000 skiers in the resort on a particular day then ten of them are going to die that day? Or in their lifetime? Even that sounds rather high...

I think we are talking about the proportion of backcountry skiers (ie those skiing outside the resort boundaries), not the proportion of ALL skiers.

Edit: sorry, hadn't seen there was a second page - not sure if someone already said this.
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Sorry I know I'm being a tad rude but please Weathercam, just try and think a little before making such an inane comment....such as....
Quote:

I think I'm in far more danger when I venture back on the piste though...

It's a wee bit puerile (there I go being rude again).
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Aaaah but bet you were sober when you typed that, whilst I was DICOKB*















*drunk in charge of a keyboard Twisted Evil
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Axsman, James the Last is thinking along the correct lines even if he did not express it clearly enough for you to understand.

The problem with the stats from the article that you quoted is that they are YEARLY. The way I read it is that over the course of a year, a BC skier has slightly less chance of dying in an avalanche as does a licensed driver over the same 1 year period. I am not sure how accurate these stats are, but my guess is that most BC skiers spend less time/fewer days BC skiing than the average licensed drivers spends driving during an entire year.

Assuming, hypothetically, that the average BC skier skis 15 days BC each year and the average licensed driver spends 185 days each year driving, then there is roughly a 10 times greater chance that a BC skier will be killed in an avalanche rather than a car crash on a day he drives to go BC skiing.

You may have suffered from a lack of typing skills, but the article you quoted suffered from a lack of thinking skills.

Edit after seeing 2nd page- As James the Last says, the driving deaths seem too high because the quoted article uses a yearly stat to make the statement about the chance of dying on a single trip to the mountain. My 10 times ratio would be higher if you reduced the number of BC days the average BC skier skis or increased the number of days the average licensed driver drives. ABC makes a good point that equipment sales may or may not accurately reflect the number of BC skiers.
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