February 9, 2007

Backcountry Skiing & Risk

After a long road trip to the San Juans, we’re back in dry SoCal, looking at bare mountains and searching the web for diversions.

Here’s an interesting American Alpine Club Article on Risk. The author argues that climbing and mountaineering accidents have dropped dramatically despite a huge increase in participants.

Mountaineering, of course, is generally considered a high-risk activity (just ask an insurance company!). And the article points out in contrast to recent trends to force mountaineers to pay for their own rescues, or block backcountry activities entirely, mountaineering activity actually accounts for a small percentage of total rescue dollars spent.

The author notes that lost hikers and other recreational activities like hunting and boating account for the bulk of rescue budgets.

We shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that backcountry skiing or winter climbing are ‘safe’. On the other hand, we don’t have much good data about the real risk of mountaineering versus commonplace exposure such as driving in traffic, or bicycling down a neighborhood street. This article, at least, is a start.

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