In December 2019, two incidents where avalanches affected secured ski slopes and buried several
people occurred within a few days, one in Andermatt-Sedrun in Switzerland and the other is the
avalanche accident in Schnals investigated in this Task Force. While media describe incidents like
this as “very rare”, we wondered, how unusual these incidents really are and whether we
can find statistics on this.
Unfortunately, this proves difficult to assess: the number of
fatalities due to avalanches on ski slopes is not registered separately, but is included in number
of avalanche fatalities in “controlled terrain”: the term includes settlements and buildings as
well as transportation corridors such as roads, ski runs and winter hiking trails. For these terrains,
generally some authority is responsible for the safety and must take appropriate measures to reduce
the risk . In the case of a ski run, for example, this would be the ski area
management operating it.
In Austria, strict regulations on avalanche control are in place with regard
to ski areas, which combine technical measures, forecasting, artificial release and the temporary
closure of slopes . In contrast, “uncontrolled terrain” refers to areas outside
settlements and away from transportation corridors, where the recreationist or group tour guide
is responsible for assessing the local avalanche danger before embarking on activities such as
ski-touring and off-piste riding.