Technical information, news, research, and opinion on avalanches, snow safety, and winter backcountry travel.

Monday, February 20, 2012

More Suffering

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to runKenny Rogers

On Sunday, four people were killed by avalanches in Washington State. I won't armchair because it only adds to the suffering for survivors.

But there's another side to the story, and it's that not everyone died. Here's a post from Turns-All-Year in which a local backcountry skier describes their experiences in/around the backcountry near Crystal Mountain Ski Area.

Yesterday was really bad. Condolences.

In the backcountry near Crystal, we triggered two slabs one 80-ft wide with 12 inch crown. No burial. The one strong warning we observed.

Then later triggered a 250-ft wide 24 inch crown. Brought down the whole small (what we thought was mellow angle) bowl, on us as we were skinning up. All of us were buried. Two partial, chest +/- deep. One burial a full 4-ft deep. Beacon and probe and quick (5-6 min.?) uncovering of the 4-ft deep burial saved a life. We all skied out with no major injuries.

A crazy day indeed.

In other posts, I've written that there is a significant difference between experience and skill. Skill means knowing how to do something properly. The tale from Crystal Mountain is a testament to the ugly possibilites that arise when you take a low skill approach to backcountry skiing.

As always, as I've written so often, it's so easy to focus on the physical and kinesthetic aspects of backcountry skiing, but the underpinnings of the sport are almost entirely cerebral.

That's why you have to manage your state of mind.

Now every gambler knows the secret to survin' is knowing what to throw away and what to keep.

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