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Western US sees deadliest avalanche week

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Town Crier “Briefs from the Region” (2) – 3/11/21

A record-breaking string of avalanche fatalities began in late February of this year as they often do—with a big storm event. Plagued by a dry first half of winter, much of the western U.S. then received the winter storms they had been waiting for, sending feet of snow piling onto what avalanche experts call a persistent weak layer. Limited by many ski resort’s COVID-19-driven reservation systems, many took to the backcountry, some for the first time, leading to the West’s deadliest week in avalanche fatalities since 1910 when an avalanche derailed a train in Washington killing 96. Midway through this season, 33 people have died in “once-in-a-decade conditions,” according to avalanche forecasters. The risk is also due to a people problem, explains The Guardian. While newcomers move into what were once secret stashes, the old hats are moving further into the backcountry, increasing risk all around. The isolation and mental health issues the pandemic brought upon society over the past year isn’t helping—some experts believe pandemic fatigue and stress is causing poor decision making in the backcountry.

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