The United States had 15 fatalities from avalanches in the past week, the most to take place over a 7-day period in more than a century, BuzzFeed News reports.
"In the past 7 days, we have had 15 avalanche fatalities in the U.S. and many close calls that could have resulted in more deaths and serious injuries," said Simon Trautman, a national avalanche specialist at the National Avalanche Center, who noted the coronavirus pandemic was driving more people than usual to outdoor activities, which might be "playing a role in this accident cluster."
The previous deadliest week for avalanche accidents took place in March of 1910, when 96 people died in an avalanche in Wellington, Washington.
A recent avalanche in Millcreek Canyon in Utah trapped two groups of skiers under the snow, killing four and leaving four alive. One person died while snowboarding at Swan Range in Montana last Saturday, another died Thursday while skiing in East Vail Chutes in Colorado, and a third died while skiing in Siskiyou County, California, on Wednesday.
Three people were killed while skiing in the backcountry area of Colorado known as the Nose, and a New Hampshire man died while skiing Monday. The body of a Utah man who was buried in an avalanche last Saturday was recovered the next morning by a rescue crew.
Trautman blamed this spike in accidents on "weak snowpack" all across the country.
"The accidents are geographically wide-ranging and are indicative of a widespread weak snowpack across the U.S.," he added. "Much of the western U.S. saw very little early season snow, and recent snowstorms are overloading this older, weaker snow and leading to elevated avalanche danger."
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