It’s been a bad January for ski-mountaineers in Japan. In just the first month of this year, there have been six fatal accidents, compared with eight deaths in the whole of 2021.
|Ski-mountaineers in the Tanigawa massif, central Honshu|
An article in the Japan Times today puts matters in perspective. Entitled “The risks, and safety measures to take, for backcountry skiers in Japan”, it reports that a prefectural governor has called for government intervention to “implement more effective avalanche safety measures for backcountry skiers”.
In fact, those avalanche safety measures are already right to hand. They are crisply summed up in a set of guidelines issued by the Nagano Prefectural Police, complete with an English-language version. Among their recommendations is to check the local avalanche forecast before setting out.
|Memorial to an avalanche victim, Mutteristock, Central Switzerland|
The Swiss experience confirms the wisdom of this advice. Of the 17 fatal Swiss ski-touring accidents in 2019, a year that was neither particularly bad or good by historical standards, 10 occurred when the forecast avalanche risk was “considerable” (level 3), three when it was “moderate” (level 2), and just one when the risk was “slight” (level 1).
These figures speak for themselves.
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