Every skier loves to slag a sledder. Forums all over the internets are alive with skiers talking about the Boulder Mountain Avalanche and how it wouldn’t happen to skiers, that the sledders are isolated from the sounds of the snow and can’t detect changes in the snowpack, and that they ignore obvious avalanche warnings. Hell, I’m one of them.
Well here’s a piece of contrary information I’ve picked up over the past few days from discussions with various members of the snowmobile community.
That event, the Big Iron Shootout, has in the past attracted over 1300 attendees. This estimate is based on several stories from people who attended who estimated numbers from 1000 to 2000. A shop owner told me that people called him from all over North America asking for directions to the event. evidence on the forums seems to indicate that the number of sledders was such a problem that the organizer decided to limit the number to 1000.
The fact that there were only 200 on scene means that up to 80% of sledders who considered attending this event stayed home.
I think that the media and the Canadian Avalanche Association did an exemplary job this year communicating the avalanche risk, and the fact that only 200 people were on scene, with only 2 deaths, is directly attributable to the educational efforts of the Avalanche Association, and the efforts of the various snowmobile clubs and federations teaching responsible sledding.
This does not absolve the sledders from all blame in this matter. It was still incredibly stupid and negligent to organize this event on year like we were having, and the fact that this person does not seem to have had a single concern for the attendees makes me wonder.
Finally, I’ve like to point out that in previous skier triggered accidents we have lost more skiers than at this event.
Anyone interested in comparing this incident with past avalanche accidents is encourages to read “Avalanche Accidents in Canada, Volume 4“.