Erich Peitzsch, a doctoral student at Montana State University and researcher for the United States Geological Survey, sought to explore the question, “how old are the people that die in avalanches?” Erich’s research was inspired by a hunch that the average age of avalanche victims is increasing. During his talk, Erich showed that this is, in fact, the case. The average age of avalanche victims has increased from 27.6 years old between 1950-1989 to 34.3 from 1990-2018. The average age of fatalities among avalanche professionals was shown to be even higher at 37.7 years.
There are a bunch of questions that exist with this. Is this the age group, or the cohort? In other words, is the avalanche hazard following one group as they get older because they are bigger risk takers...? Or is this about the economic comfort of older people...? Is it a societal thing...? Or is it something else completely...?
This 30-minute talk is a deep dive into why avalanche fatalities appear to be increasing for older people in the backcountry.
--Jason D. Martin