An article in the LA Times reports that OSHA has fined Mammoth almost $50,000 for the ski patrollers asphyxiated last winter in a volcanic fumarole and issued a “toughly worded” report holding the ski resort responsible for the deaths because they didn’t properly judge and prepare for the hazard.
I guess OSHA has to do its frequently obnoxious job, but what an awful slap for Mammoth, which is still reeling from a winter with eight fatal accidents. Our hearts go out to the folks at Mammoth, and as far as I’m concerned OSHA can go take a hike.
Two of the patrolmen fell into the fumarole while working on a fence, and a third was killed when he heroically tried to rescue the pair. Problem was, as the OSHA report is said to state, the third patrolmen was ignoring standard protocol for such situations and was improperly equipped. Any trained first aider knows the first rule is to protect the rescuer, otherwise the situation is exacerbated and you’ve got one more person to help. But what if heroics are called for? It’s tough to strike a balance between boldness and care in many situations, but when a friend only has minutes to live you have to act on instinct, and you’re not always going to make the right call. Whatever the outcome, there is nothing more special in humanity than a person laying down their life for another human being, and last winter’s tragedy in Mammoth took that verity close to home for us snow sliders.
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.