HomeOutdoorsThis Week Marks Deadliest Week of Avalanches in US in Over a Century

This Week Marks Deadliest Week of Avalanches in US in Over a Century

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Over this past week, avalanches have killed more people than over a century, marking a deadly period for mountain climbers across the country.

At least 15 people died within the past seven days from the snow slides. You would have to go back all the way to 1910 to find a more dangerous time to be up in the mountains. Four skiers in Utah are among the most recent deaths. These skiers died in an avalanche on Saturday (Feb. 6).

“In the past seven days we have had 15 avalanche fatalities in the US and many close calls that could have resulted in more deaths and serious injuries,” Simon Trautman, national avalanche specialist at the center, told BuzzFeed.

An avalanche occurred at Millcreek Canyon in Utah, trapping two different groups of skiers. Four people managed to claw their way out and survived until emergency services arrived. But unfortunately, another four skiers died from the collision of the snow.

People Died in Avalanches Across the Country

It was a sad turn of events among a sad and dangerous week for mountain climbers and skiers alike. Starting last Sunday, a 57-year-old also died in Utah. On Monday, a 54-year-old skier perished in New Hampshire. On Tuesday, avalanches in Bear Mountain, Alaska and Nose, Colorado killed two separate groups of three. A 35-year-old died in California on Wednesday. The following day, a 41-year-old died in East Vail Chutes, Colorado. On Saturday, a 60-year-old snowboarder died in Montana the same days as the hikers in Utah.

It would seem that snow is becoming a bit like a serial killer. What makes it more alarming and different from 1910 is these are separate, smaller avalanches. Back in 1910, a massive snow slide killed 96 people in Wellington, Washington. But these recent deaths are spread across the country.

Trautman said he may have a cause for the recent series of deaths. “Weak snowpacks” on the mountains have triggered the rushes of snow this past week.

“The accidents are geographically wide-ranging and indicative of a widespread weak snowpack across the US,” he said. “Much of the western US saw very little early season snow and recent snowstorms are overloading this older, weaker snow and leading to elevated avalanche danger.”

Most of the people who died appeared to have been experienced and well prepared. The researcher believes this past week shows the dangers of smaller avalanches compared to their larger counterparts.

“Large avalanches are obviously dangerous,” he said. “However, small avalanches are also dangerous. In terrain where we can be pushed over cliffs, banged into trees, or buried in depressions.”