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Avalanche risk in winter backcountry touring: status and recent trends in Switzerland


Winkler, Kurt; Fischer, Adrian; Techel, Frank (2016). Avalanche risk in winter backcountry touring: status and recent trends in Switzerland. In: International Snow Science Workshop, Breckenridge, Co., USA, 3 October 2016 - 7 October 2016, 270-276.

Abstract

Avalanches are the major cause of accidental death while recreating in the mountains during winter. Up to now the calculation of the statistical risk of death was difficult, mostly due to the lack of reliable data concerning touring activity. However, between 1999 and 2013 three surveys on the type and frequency of sports activities were conducted in Switzerland ("Sport Schweiz") with a total of 23'000 participants. In 2013, 3.9% of the Swiss residents between the age of 15 and 74 years were active winter backcountry users. This corresponds to 240'000 people, and is three times more than in 1999. The comparison of this backcountry touring activity with statistics on avalanche fatalities allows to calculate the absolute risk of death. Not considering exposure time, the risk of an active backcountry user to die in an avalanche was about 4.4 x 10 -5 per year, and thus very similar to the risk to die in a traffic accident. From 1999 to 2010, the risk per touring day decreased by nearly half. The main reason for this reduction was the increase in the proportion of snowshoe hikers, a user-group which had an about six times smaller mortality risk due to avalanches per touring day than other users of the winter backcountry. Our results help to identify high-risk user groups and allow to develop avalanche prevention measures targeted to these groups.

Abstract

Avalanches are the major cause of accidental death while recreating in the mountains during winter. Up to now the calculation of the statistical risk of death was difficult, mostly due to the lack of reliable data concerning touring activity. However, between 1999 and 2013 three surveys on the type and frequency of sports activities were conducted in Switzerland ("Sport Schweiz") with a total of 23'000 participants. In 2013, 3.9% of the Swiss residents between the age of 15 and 74 years were active winter backcountry users. This corresponds to 240'000 people, and is three times more than in 1999. The comparison of this backcountry touring activity with statistics on avalanche fatalities allows to calculate the absolute risk of death. Not considering exposure time, the risk of an active backcountry user to die in an avalanche was about 4.4 x 10 -5 per year, and thus very similar to the risk to die in a traffic accident. From 1999 to 2010, the risk per touring day decreased by nearly half. The main reason for this reduction was the increase in the proportion of snowshoe hikers, a user-group which had an about six times smaller mortality risk due to avalanches per touring day than other users of the winter backcountry. Our results help to identify high-risk user groups and allow to develop avalanche prevention measures targeted to these groups.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:avalanche risk, backcountry touring, snowshoe hiking, mortality rate
Language:English
Event End Date:7 October 2016
Deposited On:08 Dec 2016 14:15
Last Modified:07 Apr 2017 04:45
Publisher:s.n.
Official URL:http://www.slf.ch/info/mitarbeitende/techel/download/winkler_etal_avalanche_risk_backcountry_touring_issw2016.pdf
Related URLs:http://www.slf.ch/info/mitarbeitende/techel/download/winkler_etal_avalanche_risk_backcountry_touring_issw2016.pdf (Author)
https://www.campbellsci.com/2016-issw (Organisation)
http://www.issw.org/ (Organisation)

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