Washington avalanche highlights danger of backcountry sking, but also its growing popularity

The avalanche that took the lives of three skiers near Stevens Pass ski area in Washington represented two trends. The first, clear to all, is that this season has been one of the most dangerous for avalanches in some years, with some 17 killed nationwide.

The other trend, as this story in the Seattle Times notes,  is perhaps less obvious but no less significant: “So-called ‘sidecountry skiing’ or ‘lift-assisted backcountry skiing’ — because participants buy resort passes and ride chairlifts and then hike or cross-country ski to slopes outside area boundaries — is the fastest-growing segment of skiing.”

The story lays out many reasons for the uptick in backcountry skiing, from better skiers to better equipment, but also how that could lead to similar tragedies. Read more in the Seattle Times.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Watch video of professional skier Elyse Saugstad describing the moments after the avalanche happened and she deployed an airbag that may well have saved her life. See it here. Also: read what Saugstad has to say about the accident on her websiteThe avalanche near Stevens Pass ski area hit just after a group of 13 local and visiting skiers, including ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson, had begun to ski. Read more about the avalanche.

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