Patterns of death among avalanche fatalities: a 21-year review

Boyd, Jeff; Haegeli, Pascal; Abu-Laban, Rryad B.; Shuster, Michael; John C Butt
March 2009
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;3/4/2009 Doctor's Health Matters, p507
Academic Journal
Background: Avalanches are a significant cause of winter recreational fatalities in mountain regions. The purpose of this study was to determine the relative contributions of trauma and asphyxia to avalanche deaths. Methods: We reviewed all avalanche fatalities between 1984 and 2005 that had been investigated by the offices of the British Columbia Coroners Service and the Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta. In addition, we searched the database of the Canadian Avalanche Centre for fatal avalanche details. We calculated injury severity scores for all victims who underwent autopsy. Results: There were 204 avalanche fatalities with mortality information over the 21-year study period. Of these, 117 victims underwent autopsy, and 87 underwent forensic external examination. Asphyxia caused 154 (75%) deaths. Trauma caused 48 (24%) deaths, with the rate of death from trauma ranging from 9% (4/44) for snowmobilers to 42% (5/12) for ice climbers. In addition, 13% (12/92) of the asphyxia victims who underwent autopsy bad major trauma, defined as an injury severity score of greater than 15. Only 48% (23/48) of victims for whom trauma was the primary cause of death bad been completely buried. Interpretation: Asphyxia and severe trauma caused most avalanche fatalities in western Canada. The relative rates differed between snowmobilers and those engaged in other mountain activities. Our findings should guide recommendations for safety devices, safety measures and resuscitation.


Related Articles

  • Look Sharp! OSTEYEE, IAN // Climbing;Feb2012, Issue 312, p22 

    The article offers some tips for climbers on how to choose ice climbing equipment. It advises them to configure crampons based on the type of ice climbing activities and suggests dual-points for soft, warmer ice conditions. It notes the need to modify ice axe because it can be dull due to...

  • Snow Bollard Anchor. NATZ, ELLIOTT // Climbing;Dec2015/Jan2016, Issue 341, p46 

    The article discusses several important issues that professional climbers should consider when using snow as an anchor. Topics mentioned include hard-packed snow as the best conditions for building a snow bollard, a test pull for the bollard at a downward angle, and brief information about a...

  • 10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT… AVALANCHES. Snider, Laura; Givens, Jamie // Climbing;Dec2011, Issue 301, p18 

    The article presents information on several facts about the snow slides called Avalanches, which have killed several climbers in the U.S. As stated, the most lethal snow slide is known as Slab Avalanche and about 90 percent of avalanches occur on slopes with angles between 30 and 45 degrees....

  • Column Counsel. MACDONALD, DOUGALD // Climbing;Feb2012, Issue 312, p24 

    The article reports on the advice of experts Roger Strong, Dawn Glanc, and Raphael Slawinski regarding ice pillar climbing. According to Slawinski, climbers must not climb a feature that they are afraid to stand under and consider weather and ice conditions. It says that Strong suggests them to...

  • The Manual.  // Backpacker;Mar2010, Vol. 38 Issue 2, p44 

    The article presents a guide for crossing a spring snowfield including descending on slopes and self-arrest tips to stop any fall.

  • Straight up ice. Krakauer, Jon // National Geographic;Dec96, Vol. 190 Issue 6, p82 

    Discusses the sport of ice climbing. History of ice climbing; How Yvon Chouinard helped changed ice climbing in 1966; Why climbers choose to climb ice; Comments from climbers; The author's experience climbing the ice wall at the cliff of Frenchman Coulee in Washington State; Colorado's Ouray...

  • COOL VACATION. Hamalainen, Karina // Science World;2/22/2010, Vol. 66 Issue 10, p12 

    The article focuses on Girls on Ice, a free program wherein girls from the U.S. and Canada trekked Mount Baker in the Cascades mountain range of Washington State.

  • The art of ice climbing. Hochman, Paul // Ski;Dec95, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p72 

    Focuses on the art of ice climbing. Gear and equipment used in ice climbing; Author's experience as a novice climber; Fear of climbing and death. INSET: Getting started..

  • Curtain call. Prichard, Nancy // Women's Sports & Fitness;Jan/Feb96, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p50 

    Recounts the author's ice climbing adventures in the Rocky Mountains. Description of the trail; Popularity of scaling waterfall ice; How the author got started in ice climbing; Challenges of climbing frozen waterfalls; Information on five ice climbing schools across North America. INSET:...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics