The Stevens Pass Avalanche

A Good Read!

Avalanche -- photo of an avalanche with substantial snow cloud
AVALANCHE! Provided by Big Stock

Hoarfrost on the snow weakens the bond between snow layers
Hoarfrost on the snow weakens the bond between snow layers
In the 2011-2012 snow season there was an avalanche at Stevens Pass in Washingon near Seattle, that avalanche claimed lives. Not many but the lives lost were of some people who are ski industry figures. The New York Times has a well detailed account of the misadventure and in the events leading to the deaths is some of the factors Skiing Magazine touched upon in their article on risk taking, namely how familiarity breeds contempt of the risks involved.

The participants in the horror heard avalanche reports and the that avalanche risk was high and the riders also disregarded internal warnings caught up in the group dynamics. I am not chastising any of them for the disaster of the day it is easy for one to do that, but how often do we find ourselves caught up in the strong currents of the group we are with? That is why, youngsters are always warned about hanging with the “bad crowd”, hang with a good crowd and you get in trouble for jaywalking, get in trouble with the bad crowd and you find yourself up on charges. They knew there was risk and chose to take it on.

The article is well written (mostly) with it starting off like someone desperately seeking a cute phrase or metaphor like a drowning person thrashing for something to float on, but despite the grim ending the article ends well leaving a graphic image in the head.

Here is a snippet from the article:

“If it was up to me, I would never have gone backcountry skiing with 12 people,” Michelson, the ESPN journalist, said. “That’s just way too many. But there were sort of the social dynamics of that — where I didn’t want to be the one to say, you know, ‘Hey, this is too big a group and we shouldn’t be doing this.’ I was invited by someone else, so I didn’t want to stand up and cause a fuss. And not to play the gender card, but there were 2 girls and 10 guys, and I didn’t want to be the whiny female figure, you know? So I just followed along.”

You really need to read the article, they put a lot of effort into that piece, including a sidebar map of the mountain face they were on and the path of each rider to the point they were swept up by the avalanche.

Good Stuff!

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