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If you have any interest what-so-ever in backcountry skiing, the motives that drive us to explore untracked terrain and the consequences of our decisions then I would encourage you to read this extremely well written, multi-piece article chronicling the events surrounding the Tunnel Creek Avalanche that claimed 3 lives last season. A very compelling article that is well worth your time.


Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek - Multimedia Feature - NYTimes.com
 

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this is a great piece. I read and watched about a week ago. The real question is how does this apply to you?

For me it hits close to home. I often ski in East Vail which is a very similar place. Easy acesess to some high consequnece terrain. The mountain gets tracked up so fast its so easy to choose to head straight out the gate. Esspecialy if the snow is soft and deep. To me this is the biggest pit fall that I fall into. Skiing the backcountry imediately after a big storm is dicey. I say to myself I know this place well I'll be ok in the trees, these trees get skied all the time. Now I think Bull shit! I need to wait and let the snow settle and build strength.(but will I wait???)

Also skiing w/ a group is a pain in the ass that can turn a bad idea into a really bad idea fast. with big groups of strong people in my experience there is seldom a solid plan in place. Its usually like lets all go hit this one area and everyone meets at the bus stop. I think if the people in the article had a better plan and a designated leader this incident might of had a different outcome. If the guys who went left could have communicated with everyone else things would probably turned out different. If I'm in a group and feel it going south or there is no plan will I speak up???

I found the movie incredibly sad. The part with woman telling her children that their father was killed will be forever imprinted in my brain. My son is 3 months old I never want my wife to have that talk with my son. Even if your young and single if you perish you will create deal of anguish should you expire.

I will still ski powder, I will still ski East Vail but I will do it with a little more caution and if something bad happens it wasn't because I was......

The take way for me is don't even put your pack on if your not willing to turn around and try it another day. If things are generally sketch leave the pack at home. I want to ski when I'm an old man.
 

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I totally agree Porkchop. I am as guilty as anyone of playing tour guide to out of town/stater's in a fine little "sidecountry" stash at our local hill and becoming overly complacent about the situation because I am so familiar with the terrain. I could imagine ending up in a similar situation and feel fortunate that I have not.
 

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Logan,

Thanks for posting this - I'm still somewhat in shock after reading it. As I read the accounts, red flags kept popping up - the group size, disregard for the conditions, lack of a plan on how they were going to ski it, and a number of other things. It could've easily been much worse.

In addition to how many people were in the group that should've known better, one of the things that struck me was how many times people mentioned their stark misgivings about going out there, but suppressed their feelings and didn't speak up. The overconfidence of the group's leaders overrode the experience and knowledge others had.

Riding up the chairlift Friday before Christmas, I saw tracks on the Professor while passing over small slides to the ground on Exhibition at A-Basin. I am amazed at what some folks are skiing these days.

Remember: if it's steep enough to be fun, deep enough to ski, and long enough to make more than two turns, it's steep enough, deep enough and long enough to bury you. Also, if the trees are spaced far enough apart to ski, the snow can slide in the trees. I don't care how long and good it is, no powder run is worth dying for.

Be safe out there, everyone.

-AH
 

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No doubt a very tragic situation. Obviously agree with the comments above. On a different note, the interactive NY Times article is really well done. The maps and videos/audio laced into the text really pulls you into the story in a way I haven't seen before. I could see this being the future of newspaper articles. Does NYT do this a lot? I could see why paying for an on-line subscription would be worth it for interactive stories like this. Thanks for sharing...
 

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I think that posting this is a great idea and it should be required reading for those taking avy classes or just involved in back country winter adventures. At one level the author did a great multimedia job of laying the story out……and of course at another level it was indeed a sad tragedy of a group of seemingly informed folks getting carried away with the new snow and the great day while ignoring imminent dangers. I imagine we have all been there at some level, hopefully without the same results, but for me this article just makes me shake my head wondering why I/we as backcountry skiers aren’t more willing to turn around when conditions aren’t good, communicate better as groups, adhere to skiing with partners, developing and respecting group leadership. There is nothing heroic about a friends funeral especially when you might feel some of the responsibility …….have a safe winter out there and remember to fully appraise each run before the first turn is made, the time required is minimal….Let it Snow!!!
 

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I have collected all the BC gear, taken the classes, practiced in the beacon basins... and never really hit anything over 30 deg in the actual BC. This story is the exact reason I have so far stayed away. The group dynamics is one of the biggest aspects. I can handle a kayaking group and I know how to fit in and how to disengage. I don't feel the same with a BC ski group yet.

On a side note, the way the article is written with the inline videos and the graphics really adds to the overall read to the piece.
 
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