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May 3, 2000

Avalanches, Air Pockets, and Advertisements

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Drs Fontanarosa and Rennie are Deputy Editors, JAMA.

JAMA. 2000;283(17):2293-2294. doi:10.1001/jama.283.17.2293

Avalanches pose a serious hazard for mountain climbers, skiers, and snowmobile riders. During the winter of 1998-1999, avalanches accounted for approximately 50 deaths in the United States and Canada and 150 deaths in Europe.1 The likelihood of survival in an avalanche is largely related to how quickly the victim buried in snow is located and extricated. The probability of survival in relation to the time buried in an avalanche is estimated to be approximately 90% at 15 minutes but decreases to 30% at 35 minutes, with the increased mortality representing deaths from acute asphyxiation.2 Survival is impossible without an air pocket.2

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