Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

It's time to play safe



With apologies, this week's column is more or less a rerun. Not because I'm busy but because I've been asked, repeatedly, to run this again. Especially now.

When I first wrote it, in January 2009, my timing sucked. Unknown to me, a long-time local was killed in an avalanche between the time I wrote it and the time it ran. Some thought it was aimed at him and they were righteously pissed off at me. It wasn't. It was, and is, aimed at everyone who is longing to get up in the alpine or play in the backcountry, myself included.

Conditions are very scary up there right now, hopefully getting better. But don't believe me, check out Wayne Flann's avalanche blog www.wayneflannavalancheblog.com or, if it's video you prefer, watch the size 3 slide in Corona Bowl Ryan Bougie triggered earlier this week. www.youtube.com/watch?v=O65CFK0zoFk&sns=fb

With luck, this latest storm cycle will hasten the opening of the alpine for the season. That's a mixed blessing. As much as I'm relishing a run down Peak to Creek, a plunge into Ruby Bowl and a tramp in the Nearcountry, when the ropes drop and the Peak chair starts running the likelihood of death visiting our doorstep will approach certainty. And with it, like maggots on roadkill, a ridiculously uninformed — hey, let's call a spade a spade: absolutely stupid — media circus will descend on our happy mountain home.

The circus will be preceded by dead men skiing. They won't know they're dead until the grim reaper French kisses the life out of them. They'll think they're having the time of their lives. They'll think they're invincible. They'll think they can ski anything, anywhere. They'll think those things because they're very good skiers who have conquered the steepest pitches in-bounds, hucked the highest cliffs and developed their skills far in advance of their understanding and judgment.

They'll be wrong: dead wrong. Avalanches don't care how good a skier you are or how much you think you understand the dynamic forces of tonnes of snow lying temptingly on slopes steeper than the angle of repose. Avalanches don't care that you think you're in safe terrain or just blissfully unaware of the dangers several thousand feet above you.

With any luck they'll die alone; they won't have peer-pressured their friends into coming along for the last ride with them. With any luck they'll be swept over a cliff and die instantly when their acceleration to terminal velocity comes to abrupt halt on a rocky outcropping. With any luck, they'll be tumbled through a stand of trees, crushed in a boulder field or have half their head taken off by a sharp slab of shale.