The 2008-2009 avalanche season has begun in North America. On Sunday 7 snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche near Fernie, BC. 4 other snowmobilers heard the commotion and rushed to the aid, only to be caught by a second slide within the same path. Ultimately, 2 were able to dig themselves out, and pull a third free. The bodies of 8 others have been recovered, leaving 2 still unaccounted for.

Washington State joined BC the same day when a snowmobiler from Colville was caught in an avalanche near Harts Pass, in Okanogan County. His three fellow snowmobilers were able to locate the man with avalanche transceivers, and dig him out within the critical 15 minutes. But, the 24 year old was unable to be revived.

Avalanches account for 62% of all fatalities from natural disasters in Washington State. This might be because most fatale avalanches are triggered by their victims. Volcanos, Floods, Earthquakes, and Landslides, at least in the last moments, are capricious. But, studies show that avalanches, in most cases, provide clues before the fact. By no means should our beautiful winter backcountry be avoided for the sake of avalanche. But, people who plan to venture out should first: take a formal course in avalanche safety that includes both classroom and field sessions; be prepared with each individual carrying a shovel, probe, and avalanche transceiver; and remain flexible in their plans to minimize risk.

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