I heard that Tanner Hall, a well known stunt skier of the new-school variety, was badly hurt doing Chad’s Gap, a gap jump in the backcountry near Alta, Utah. Gap jumps are simply kickers and landings with some sort of pit or declivity in between. This configuration adds height to the jump, making for more radical looking photos and video, an ingredient as important to new-school as the skiing. Gap jumps are also dangerous. Any miscalculation of speed will drop you into the pit or violently slam you into the wrong side of the landing. Numerous skiers have been badly hurt doing gap jumps, and at least one has died (he slammed down to a paved road in a “gap.”) Hall crashed into the side of the Chad’s Gap landing and reports say he broke both ankles — not a trivial injury, as the ankle joint is complex, and thus prone to all sorts of life-long problems once traumatized.
From the TGR Web Forums: “These athletes are being exploited by the sponsors and the movie makers. A very select few of them will make some form of living doing this stuff. A lot of others will end up with lifelong disabilities (or worse) because they tried (and failed) to do some of the stuff they see in these films. This has been going on for as long as Warren Miller has made ski films, it’s just that the stakes keep getting higher.”
I’ve blogged before about our modern day “gladiators” such as Tanner Hall. One hopes their sacrifice of life and limb is worth making. I believe it sometimes is, but can easily pass into a zone of absurdity. Unlike ski racing or organized free-skiing competition, challenges such as Chads are being pushed in places without standby emergency medical care, and no consistent control of configuration or conditions. If an athlete such as Hall is serious about a long and possibly lucrative career, they might consider limiting their stunts to more controlled venues than a “backcountry booter” with a history of carnage.
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.