To read individual accidents during the 1980s, use the drop down menu: ACCIDENTS >> 1980s >> years in the upper right corner of the website.
1980s In Review
In the 1980s 110 avalanche accidents resulted in 150 deaths. The worst accident of the decade — and the worst accident since 1926 — was 11 climbers killed on Mt. Rainier on 21 June 1981.
Most avalanche accidents killed only one person. Of the 110 accidents, 91 (83%) killed one, 12 (11%) killed two; 3 (3%) killed three, 2 killed (2%); two other accidents killed 7 and 11.
During the 1980s avalanches killed people in 13 states. Colorado experienced just over one-third (36%) of all US avalanche deaths (54/150), nearly as many killed as in the next three states (WA, AK, UT) combined.
Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) avalanche victims were engaged in some type of recreation. Backcountry skiers (then called cross-country skiers) accounted for 29% of all avalanche deaths. Climbers followed close behind with 25% of the total. Out-of-area skiers accounted for 15% of deaths. The first snowboarder deaths (3) occurred in the 1980s. Snowmobilers accounted for only 6% (9/150) of US avalanche deaths. Generally, the machines in the 1980s were not capable to get riders into avalanche terrain where they could get into trouble. The miscellaneous recreation category (5%) included a camper, a hunter, a snowcat skier, two snowplayers, and three people walking in the Alpine Meadows parking lot when a big avalanche hit the closed ski area (31 March 1982).
Of those killed not engaged in recreation, 9 (6%) were ski patrollers. The worst ski patrol avalanche accident in the US killed 3 experienced patrollers at Aspen Highlands on 31 March 1984. Of the others at work category, 4 victims were workers at Alpine Meadows (31 March 1982). A miner in Colorado was killed in 1985 (but his partner survived a complete burial of 19 hours!), and a mountain rescuer was buried and killed in 1982 in New Hampshire during the search for two overdue ice climbers.