Peter Marshall died in an avalanche during an avalanche safety class near Red Mountain Pass in 2019. In an avalanche lawsuit his family names the school, the guide, and Backcountry Access.
The slide swept six skiers down a slope. All of them were part of a Level 2 American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) class. Which was offered by the Silverton Avalanche School.
The family is suing the guide, school and local rescue group. And also the maker of an avalanche airbag and its private equity firm owner. This lawsuit marks the second recent legal action involving avalanches based on reports by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
“We have a block of harder snow over a section of weak sugary facets of the ground, so we have something over nothing," said Dave Zinn, avalanche expert. "This is the recipe for an avalanche, all you need now is a steep slope and a trigger.”
“Really watch out for those signs of instability -- like shooting cracks. Do some avalanche testing - dig stability tests, do an extended column test, see if you get stable results," said Zinn. "And if you don't see (stable results), find a different slope."
A new avalanche beacon training park outside Minturn, Colorado gives the public an accessible opportunity to practice using avalanche transceivers. Beacons are a critical piece of safety equipment for winter backcountry recreation.
Nearly 40% of the people caught in an avalanche last season had taken a traditional style formal Level 1 avalanche class. About 70% had intermediate or advanced avalanche training. This mirrors previous research.
While the number of backcountry beginners involved in snow avalanches stayed similar before and after the pandemic and the number of intermediate users involved in avalanches actually decreased, the number of advanced skiers involved in avalanches spiked.
According to the avalanche study the results agree with previous research that has indicated that avalanche education does not reduce avalanche exposure.