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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April 4, 2006


I’ve been reading a collection of articles on the SunRockIce website. One that caught my eye is called Decision Making for Wilderness Leaders, by Ian McCammon, of the National Outdoor Leadership School. It’s probably no secret that the avalanche education industry has undergone a crisis of confidence in recent years. Disturbing studies suggest not only that traditional avalanche courses may be ineffective, but that they may even increase the likelihood a person will expose themself to risk (more…)

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March 22, 2006

National Geographic Returns to Chernobyl

We’ll stay a little off topic for the day, I guess. If you’ve found the Ghost Town/Kid of Speed entry on my links page, you may have guessed I’m fascinated with Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident. In the April issue, National Geographic Magazine returns to the site of the disaster 20 years later with a compelling look at Chernobyl, past, present, and future (more…)

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