Spatial and temporal analysis of fatal off-piste and backcountry avalanche accidents in Austria with a comparison of results in Switzerland, France, Italy and the US
Abstract. In this article we analyzed spatial and temporal patterns of fatal Austrian avalanche accidents caused by backcountry and off-piste skiers and snowboarders within the winter periods 1967/1968–2015/2016. The data were based on reports of the Austrian Board for Alpine Safety and reports of the information services of the federal states.
Using the date and the location of the recorded avalanche accidents, we were able to carry out spatial and temporal analyses applying generalized additive models and Markov random-field models.
As a result of the trend analysis we noticed an increasing trend of backcountry and off-piste avalanche fatalities within the winter periods 1967/1968–2015/2016 (although slightly decreasing in recent years), which is in contradiction to the widespread opinion in Austria that the number of fatalities is constant over time. Additionally, we compared Austrian results with results of Switzerland, France, Italy and the US based on data from the International Commission of Alpine Rescue (ICAR). As a result of the spatial analysis, we noticed two hot spots of avalanche fatalities (
Because of the increasing trend and the rather
narrow regional distribution of the fatalities, initiatives aimed at preventing avalanche accidents were highly recommended.