Canadian avalaches result in higher mortality rate
Tourism Canada will not be pleased.
Canada’s ski hills and mountainsides are more deadly than the ones enjoyed by winter sport enthusiasts in Switzerland, according to a new study focused on survival rates following an avalanche.
Researchers from Canada, Italy and Switzerland studied 301 cases of Canadians caught in avalanches and 946 Swiss.
On average Canadians were rescued about 18 minutes after burial, while Swiss victims were rescued about 35 minutes after they were caught in raging torrents of snow.
However the study showed that denser snow conditions – similar to ones found in the maritime Coast Mountains – are more likely to cause asphyxia.
“Significant differences were observed between the overall survival curves for the two countries; compared with the Swiss curve, the Canadian curve showed a quicker drop at the early stages of burial and poorer survival associated with prolonged burial," wrote Dr. Pascal Haegeli, Simon Fraser University, with his Italian and Swiss coauthors. A summary of the results was published on science website Eureka Alert.
"Poorer survival probabilities in the Canadian sample were offset by significantly quicker extrication,” said the authors.
Haegeli found that 70 to 90 per cent of people buried in Swiss avalanches survived if they were dug out in 20 minutes or less. But for Canadians, or people buried in Canadian avalanches, the same survival rates only applied if the person was dug out in ten minutes.
If someone caught in a Canadian slide was dug out between 10 to 20 minutes their chances of survival dropped to 36 per cent.
He noted that denser trees and heavier snow contributed to injury on Canadian slopes during slides.
Anyone who wants to learn more about avalanche safety, including what to do if you or a friend is caught in a slide, should head to the Canadian Avalanche Centre.
With files from the Canadian Press
P.S. Credit where it is due. Since I knocked out the first part of this blog on Monday night James Keller from the Canadian Press has written a long article on the same subject that is worth checking out.