I think it's a bit of both. This year in a lot of areas in Western North America the snowpack is sketchier than the average due to long droughts, inconsistent temperatures and an overall shallow snowpack. That being said: on it's own, a sketchy snowpack doesn't cause avalanche fatalities, you need the human element, and some deaths (like the latest ones in Alberta: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/lake-louise-avalanche-victims-not-heard-from-in-7-days-rcmp-1.2574740)
aren't to be blamed on 'things getting worse' so much as ignorance of the people who went.
The biggest challenge is educating people on the risks when travelling and playing in the mountains during winter months.
As far as this avalanche in Sochi goes - the only reason we are even hearing about it is because the Olympics just went down there, so it's still on the worlds radar. Last year when the zorb accident happened in the same region the media talked about the tourist deaths in the region and the numbers were pretty high.
I just did a quick search and found this article from last year:
"Until 2006, hundreds of people died every year at the North Caucasus ski resorts," said Kantemir Davydov, an Emergencies Ministry spokesman in southern Russia. "That number has fallen sharply, but still on average 20 to 30 tourists die every year. The causes of the deaths are various, but the root is the same: There is no clear system assuring tourism safety."
Eager for any business that brings in badly needed tourist revenue, local officials are reluctant to enforce safety requirements, Davydov said.
Federal investigators said they were inspecting the Dombai resort and attempting to determine who was responsible for the fatal zorb ride.
Russian state television suggested that one reason winter sports in Russia so often take lives is that people too often ignore basic safety rules. Its report showed families sledding on a slope near Moscow that was clearly marked "no sledding" and said six people had been hospitalized Tuesday with injuries, including concussions and broken bones.
I'm sure there are many, many more avalanche deaths in that region that we don't hear about, because it isn't really a story we are normally concerned about.
Something also to be taken into account is, as the trend shows, more and more people are going into the backcountry as gear becomes better and more affordable. More people = more incidents, regardless of overall stability. Another thing that skews things is hearing about high profile deaths and thinking "things are getting worse", when in reality, the more skill and experience you have, the more time you spend out there, and therefore: the higher the odds of getting caught in an avalanche become.
When you put yourself in a bad spot, the mountain doesn't care. A rather interesting example of this is the Granduc Avalanche in 1965 (http://explorenorth.com/articles/granduc_mine_avalanche.html)