More avalanche news: THIS IS GETTING TOO TRAGIC, just heard two young backcountry snowboarders in Idaho were buried together and died — with beacons and a companion who “couldn’t find them.” If this is true, it’s got to be one of the worst tragedies since a snowmobiler’s wife some years ago who left the scene of an avalanche, and rescuers returned to find her dead husband’s hand sticking out of the snow.
The Canyons avalanche in Utah is generating the usual fallout. The backcountry skiing avalanche terrain is accessed by a gate near a ski lift, and the Canyons appear to tout the existence of backcountry skiing access at their resort. Thus, people are wondering if such access is appropriate — especially if marketed. While we backcountry skiers and riders are quick to say such access is a right, I’m wondering if in some cases it might be considered a privilege. And perhaps, on rare occasions be inappropriate.
Sure, if we’re informed adults, crossing through a backcountry gate is certainly something we can make our own choices about. But consider children, teenagers — or people who are un-informed. Backcountry gates usually have dire warning signs about possible death — yet truth be told, most ski tickets have similar warnings in the fine print. Indeed, we are so bombarded with warnings of immanent death, I’m wondering if warnings at backcountry gates really have any efficacy at all!
Flip down the visor of your SUV and you’ll read about possible carnage. Buy a paper shredder — read about keeping your necktie out of the slot — or else! Check the directions for your ski binding — you may be crippled! Even websites can kill you (read the fine print). After all that, read the sign at the backcountry gate and receive the meaning — maybe.
It’s a discussion we’ll probably be having forever — and it is worth talking about.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.