A Case Study of Tunnel Creek Avalanches

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The case by John Branch covers a real problem that has resulted from the unpredictable avalanches during winter. Avalanches have resulted in deaths of many skiers that are usually in the process of exploring the adventure the scenes in most tunnel creeks bring forth. Destruction of property such as houses, deaths as well as the destruction of vegetation has also been as a result of the forces created by the moving mass of large blocks of ice (Branch). The study of this case helps identify some of the causes that have led to the situation as reported and help think of probable solutions to stopping the needless deaths.


            One of the reasons causing the deaths has been attributed to the unpredictable nature of the natural avalanches. As noted in this case, the avalanche that Elyse Saugstad is caught up in starts as a minor drift of snow that quickly grows into the avalanche. Natural avalanches are hard to predict or even see at their initial stages which makes them very fatal. Skiers have also been blamed for going deeper into the tunnel creek areas where the danger is higher and the risk is inevitable whenever they are caught up in avalanches.

Proof of causes

            Avalanches can either occur naturally or can be triggered by humans. Those that occur naturally are usually undetected and lead to more fatalities. Their time of occurrence is usually unknown and thus no one can predict how many will occur at any given time. The case presents a scenario whereby 34 lives were lost in the previous winter courtesy of avalanches. Among the victims, 8 fatalities were caused by natural avalanches that caught up with them while skiing into the deeper parts of the tunnel creek. The pro skiers and experienced elite level backcountry skiers are said to be taking this route more often despite the caution that has been emphasized in the attempt to demonstrate their prowess in the game (Branch). This has, in turn, led to more fatalities.

            On the other hand, human-triggered avalanches equally lead to the high number of fatalities that have been noted to be on the rise. For instance, the case of a student from the University of Washington being caught up in an avalanche in March 2011 could have ended up causing more fatalities as there were others who were partially buried by an avalanche triggered by ski patrol team (Branch). Many cases have also been reported of human activity such as skiing triggering them. In other words, activities triggering the avalanches in tunnels creeks should be avoided.

Action plan

            The unpredictable nature of natural avalanches makes it difficult to recommend a solution to the needless deaths brought by them. However, skiers need to be sensitized on the issue to avoid being caught up in the mess owing to their unwavering need for adventuring. In addition, a boundary should be marked to separate the good to ski areas from those that pose the risk of death. Such marks should be visible to skiers so that they can know when approaching such danger zones. On the other hand, human activities that trigger avalanches in tunnel creek should be avoided to avoid such cases. Moreover, the ski patrol should devise equipment that will not trigger avalanches during their rescue missions. The statistics of deaths occurring should be made available to those who participate in the exercise to help them exercise caution with that knowledge in mind.

Works Cited

Branch, John. "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia, 26 Dec. 2012, www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/index.html#/?part=tunnel-creek.

October 30, 2023

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