Female avalanche deaths remain rare | SteamboatToday.com

Female avalanche deaths remain rare

Less than 5 percent of snow-slide fatalities attributed to women

Bob Berwin/Summit Daily

— An inbounds avalanche at Utah’s Snowbird ski area last week was notable for the fact that it marked a rare female avalanche death.

Dale Atkins, a former forecaster with the avalanche center, said that going back to the 2003-04 season, there have been 133 deaths nationwide, but only five victims have been females – less than five percent.

Even though many more women are venturing into the backcountry these days, the number of female deaths as a percentage of the total has declined in recent seasons.

In the 10-year period before the 2003-2004 season, 8 percent of all avalanche deaths were females, Atkins said.

“Ten years ago, you almost never saw a woman in an avalanche class,” Atkins said, explaining that he’s seen an exponential growth in backcountry interest on the part of women.

Manufacturers and retailers have reported similar trends, producing gender-specific gear and seeing more sales of backcountry and rescue gear to women.

Atkins said there’s been a bit of research on gender demographics by the avalanche community. One recent study presented at a workshop suggested that when a woman is part of a group of backcounry skiers, the group is much less likely to take risks.

Those findings didn’t surprise local backcountry enthusiast Ellen Hollinshead, who said women tend to be more cautious and somewhat less prone to peer pressure when making decisions in the backcountry.

“For us, it’s not always about skiing the steepest line,” she said.

Leslie Ross, of Babes in the Backcountry, agrees.

“Women are traditionally more process-oriented,” she said. “They’re willing to say: ‘I just don’t feel good about this.’ Males tend to say: ‘Let’s just go for it.'”

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