Way back when, Telemarktips.com publisher Mitch Weber gave me the impression he was somewhat of an “area skier” rather than a committed backcountry earn-your-turns aficionado. But over past years his backcountry activity seems to have increased (or perhaps he’s just made a point of sharing more). This much to mine and many other’s delight, since Mitch is a good writer with a passion for covering the the sport of ski touring.
Thus, it was an ironic twist last weekend when Mitch and his friends tangled with an inbounds avalanche at Mammoth resort in which two of his buddies came close to serious injury or death.
They’re all okay, so my puckish side wants to say, “Mitch, you’d better spend even more time earnin ’em, it’s safer!” With that said, however, I was indeed alarmed when I read Mitch’s report and wish to extend those indomitable Teletipers a heartfelt “glad you’re okay!”
It all gets me thinking… North American resorts should indeed receive praise for how much steep natural terrain they’re now doing avalanche control on and opening. Yet there is a catch. If you want enough snow left on a slope to ski, you can’t blast it all off with explosives or carpet bomb it to the point of being unskiable. And as we all learn in avy class, if the ingredients for a slide exist (snow, slab, sliding surface, trigger and slope angle), an avalanche is possible. Perhaps remotely possible, but… as Mitch and his friends’ experience proves, possible.
So don’t laugh when you see guys in the lift line with Avalung packs and shovels. And son, you WILL wear that beacon and ski with a buddy when you’re poking around the corners of the resorts.
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.