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Aaron Karitis does not survive injuries sustained from avalanche in Haines on Saturday

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
post #2 of 12

That's a wake up call, top guide, top avalanche training, historically safe terrain and he gets killed in an avalanche.  The no helmet, no airbag is a bit disturbing.  You hope a pro would demonstrate top safety technique.  Would the airbag have saved him?

post #3 of 12

Holy crap!  

This is another time when one of the more experienced pros is taken out.  So sad. :( 

 

This quote from the article is telling: 

Much like the pros that died at Steven's Pass a few years ago and those who died near Loveland last year. 

 

Pros at the top of the field. 

 

Quote:
 Wissman said Karitis exhibited an incredibly high level of professionalism and knowledge about guiding and skiing. He also noted that in the past year Karitis obtained his Canadian Level II avalanche safety certification, which is more rigorous and demanding than the U.S. equivalent. “He was trying to further his education,” he said. “He is a legit guide, and someone I really respect.”

Edited by Trekchick - 3/19/14 at 7:04am
post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagles Pdx View Post
 

That's a wake up call, top guide, top avalanche training, historically safe terrain and he gets killed in an avalanche.  The no helmet, no airbag is a bit disturbing.  You hope a pro would demonstrate top safety technique.  Would the airbag have saved him?

Lots of pros don't wear airbags, especially when they are in terrain that is historically safe (as you put it.)

 

But please, don't turn this into another helmet thread.  

Posts that turn this thread into a helmet thread will be deleted out of respect to Aaron. 

post #5 of 12

That's 2 Bend locals this week.:( You just never know what Nature will throw at you. Sad.

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post
 

Lots of pros don't wear airbags, especially when they are in terrain that is historically safe (as you put it.)

 

But please, don't turn this into another helmet thread.  

Posts that turn this thread into a helmet thread will be deleted out of respect to Aaron. 

I didn't "put it" any way the article by Powder put it that way.  The article in Powder also brings up the issue of airbag and helmet.  

 

More of an airbag issue since buried under 7 feet of snow, suffocation was the initial risk.

 

Why wouldn't safety gear be key part of any story like this?  Just like accidents any where in skiing, you analyze why it happened so there is no repeat or greatly reduced risks or survivability. 

 

The avalanche risk assessment comes into play also.  The article notes the unusual conditions in Alaska, conditions we'll see with increased frequency so the questions of the risk assessment models should also be asked.  Historically safe may not be historically safe.

post #7 of 12

Mod Note: Out of respect for the deceased and good taste, any attempts to derail this into a debate of avalanche/safety gear will be removed from this thread to it's own thread. 

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Just plan sad. Historically safe terrain, with nature one will just never know! 

 

-Sal  

post #9 of 12

Something that I have learned over the last few years - whether anyone else has learned this or not - is that there's a tremendous amount more randomness associated with fatal avalanche incidents than I would ever have believed ten or fifteen years ago.

 

Here in Jackson Hole, I see people CONSTANTLY skiing places and conditions that I would have considered way too dangerous back in my guiding days.  They are skiing these places and conditions with very few serious consequences (although the occasional serious consequence seems to be pretty serious - and permanent).

 

What all of this tells ME is that most of the terrain and conditions people are skiing these days are probably somewhat less dangerous that I was educated to believe 35 years ago.

 

That doesn't change the fact that I still consider skiing in these conditions and terrain to be more dangerous than I'm willing to accept.  But the fact is, fatal incidents are still much more rare - on a relative basis - than I would have believed they would be.  That doesn't change how I am going to conduct myself in avalanche terrain, but it very definitely tells me that the people who are pushing the envelope are not as "crazy" as I would have believed.  They're just occasionally unlucky.

post #10 of 12
I was a bc skier. After a few close calls even thought all precautions were taken I decided this activity was not for me. Reminds me of the Ocean. Calm and serine on top but what lurks in the depths. Conditions at one area of the hill can a different only a short distance away. Skiing a avalanche feels like your walking on marbles if your lucky enough to stay on your feet.
post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
 

Something that I have learned over the last few years - whether anyone else has learned this or not - is that there's a tremendous amount more randomness associated with fatal avalanche incidents than I would ever have believed ten or fifteen years ago.

 

Here in Jackson Hole, I see people CONSTANTLY skiing places and conditions that I would have considered way too dangerous back in my guiding days.  They are skiing these places and conditions with very few serious consequences (although the occasional serious consequence seems to be pretty serious - and permanent).

 

What all of this tells ME is that most of the terrain and conditions people are skiing these days are probably somewhat less dangerous that I was educated to believe 35 years ago.

 

That doesn't change the fact that I still consider skiing in these conditions and terrain to be more dangerous than I'm willing to accept.  But the fact is, fatal incidents are still much more rare - on a relative basis - than I would have believed they would be.  That doesn't change how I am going to conduct myself in avalanche terrain, but it very definitely tells me that the people who are pushing the envelope are not as "crazy" as I would have believed.  They're just occasionally unlucky.

I don't know, Bob.  It's the curse of negative reinforcement.  Avalanches are low probability, high consequence, events.  Just because people are constantly skiing stuff that you'd have deemed dangerous without an event doesn't mean that it is safe.  It might just mean that they were on the lucky side of the draw.

 

RIP, Aaron.

 

Mike

post #12 of 12

Our deep condolences to Aaron Karitis family and friends.  ~~We are parents of Nickolay Dodov, who was killed in avalanche in Haines, AK, 03/13/2012 heli snowboarding with Alaska Heliskiing LLC.

Natalia and Alex Dodov

 

 

 

CHILKAT VALLEY NEWS, Haines, March 20/2014, Editorial By Tom Morphet --- Four heli-skiing deaths in Haines since 2012 are an unacceptable toll. They’re also a black eye for our town, an unnecessary public expense and a hindrance to the efforts of well-meaning people to make a home for the industry here. To protect the lives of guides and clients, government must step in and establish reasonable safety regulations, just as it does in other hazardous industries such as construction, mining, logging and commercial fishing. Here’s a proposed regulation: On commercial trips, require guides or others leading groups to wear deployable air bags. Used properly, the bags have proved to be highly effective at keeping skiers atop snow during avalanches. You can’t go near the Port Chilkoot Dock these days if you’re not wearing a hardhat. Down at the harbor, commercial gillnetters are required to carry a survival suit for every deckhand. But basic, lifesaving safety gear is not required in the heli-ski industry, where workers and clients routinely encounter risk of injury or death from avalanches. Three of the four heli-skiers who died in Haines were guides. The State of Alaska takes steps to protect other workers in avalanche zones. Ten years ago, state prosecutors convicted Whitewater Engineering of Bellingham, Wash. of criminally negligent homicide after one of the company’s workers operating a backhoe was killed in a 1999 avalanche near Cordova. In that case, the state’s occupational safety office alleged that basic, required safety procedures were not followed and the company exhibited gross negligence after being warned of high avalanche danger. A judge agreed and Whitewater was fined $150,000, and ordered to pay restitution to the dead man’s family. Is the state concerned about avalanche risk for some workers, but not others? Local heli-ski companies have previously made statements about self-imposed safety improvements, but Saturday’s death testifies that changes aren’t coming fast enough. For weeks, operators have been aware of an elevated avalanche hazard created by this year’s uncommon snow conditions. In addition to deaths since 2012, there also have been heli-ski injuries and close calls involving survival after live burials. Harrowing footage of one such burial here was circulating on the Internet this week. Self-policing by this industry does not appear to be a credible or timely route to minimizing risk. The government has the authority to improve safety now and the power to make those improvements stick. If state or federal land managers aren’t interested in saving lives, the Haines Borough could require use of air bags as part of its heli-ski tour permit process. For commercial guides going ahead of clients down mountains, donning an air bag should be as automatic as strapping on a seat belt before driving a car. -- Tom Morphet

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