The other day, while teaching an avalanche rescue course, I mentioned to the group that I wear a beacon inbounds on days when the avalanche risk is elevated. A few people in the group seemed baffled and looked at me, confused: “Why would you need to wear a beacon inbounds, it’s controlled, right?” one person said. Yes, ski areas are controlled but the truth is skiing and snowboarding is risky and so are avalanches – even when in an inbounds scenario.
The 2020 avalanche season, especially for ski resorts, got off to a rough start with two inbounds slides taking the lives of 4 people in two separate instances (one at Alpine Meadows in California, the other at Idaho’s Silver Mountain). This comes after an inbounds avalanche killed two last year at New Mexico’s Taos. Whilst ski areas are seen by the public as being relatively safe places, the question that could be posed is what are the chances of getting buried in an inbounds slide and is the public still safe at resorts with avalanche terrain? The answer, of course, can be fickle with no real clear consensus. Inbounds avalanches are, without a doubt, still a rare occurrence and the specifics fluctuate. So don’t be paranoid. But maybe think about your surroundings and the fact you are in the mountains. As a skier or rider there are ways to be more alert and tips to staying safe. Of course simply understanding that skiing or snowboarding is a risk in itself is a good place to start.