Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Snowbird Avalanche

Long time Bird local and shredder "Pouch" agreed to answer some questions about the tragic events this past Sunday. He made the intial phone call to ski patrol and witnessed the entire thing.

You guys were first on the scene with the avalanche. Do you feel this tragedy is the fault of the ski patrol or was this truly a freak accident?

Honestly, after seeing how many tracks had already been laid into that zone, I don't think there is any way the patrol could be at fault. They really needed to get some tracks on that face before this next system hit, and they may have rushed it a bit, but I feel like it was just one of those things. Hearing how many of my friends had "just ridden" that line, and knowing howe many were right there when it happened, I'm grateful that there were not more casualties.

Some are saying they have less patrolers due to the economy, do you think that made a difference?

I don't know about them having less patrols on staff this year or not. To me, it seemed like there was a large number that responded, and I was most impressed by how many familiar faces I saw up there volunteering. The original group that I was in never even made it down past the top two debris fields but when I saw how many people were below in the apron I knew that the Bird has some seriously dedicated locs. Looking out for each other is the only way to be when your playground is as serious as ours.

I heard the probe line and whole rescue effort was super professional, do you agree or disagree?

Yes and no. It was fairly obvious that some of the patrol that responded were relatively new and maybe not as experienced as some of the others. I saw Carlo yelling at some of them that hesitated as they came on scene. Not sure if they were assessing the situation before acting or if they were simply overwhelmed with the scope of what they saw, but at that point we were probing with skis, poles and snowboards so every extra second that we could have a real probe in our hands seemed to me like it needed to be taken advantage of. On the other hand, I was personally working with a veteran that ran his line with precision and commanded his group very well.

My theory about the avalanche is that we got those early november storms then the heat wave came. This probably rotted the snow pretty good, then we got those cold storms with a bunch of new snow. Baldy did not get skier compression like the rest of the mountain since Baldy did not open until day of the avalanche, whats your take?

This sounds pretty accurate to me. Unfortunately, to make the area safe for the rest of the season it really did need that compression, especially with the forecast talking about the pattern changing and storms starting to line up. Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress....

Snowbird to me has always been ultra safe, almost to the point of ridiculous in the past. What do you think this means for future Baldy and White Pine openings? Do you think Snowbird should follow Jackson Holes open boundary policy?

I think you all have a pretty good idea about the depth of my love for powder and snowboarding in general. But, that being said, I have to agree with the "better safe than sorry" policy, especially when it comes to my personal welfare. When I go to the resort I want to be able to relax and rely on Snow Safety doing their job. When I'm in the backcountry, and although there are others that do spend more time there than I do, I take full responsibility for myself and my group. If something seems sketchy or I get a bad feeling about it, I will stay away. When I'm at the resort I don't think about my beacon or wearing a shovel and carrying a probe. Personally, I hope this episode opens some eyes to the reality of what we're doing out there and that it forces Snowbird to be extra cautious when opening terrain. I mean, not only am I out there but countless numbers of my friends and "family". There are people out there with way more to lose than I stand to. So many of my friends now have families of their own and to see any of the beautiful children that I've come to know grow up without a parent would break my heart.

Anything you want to say?

Please, friends, family, complete strangers, be careful out there. Although what we do is technically "recreation", it's no freaking joke. I think we all have a better understanding of that now and I hope that everyone uses this tragedy as a learning experience. Please don't let Heather's sacrifice be in vain.


1 comment:

Huckleberry Hart said...

Great interview. Condolences to the friends and family.