‘Big ride’ was not cool
March 24, 2002
I’m writing this letter to the young men who narrowly escaped dying in an avalanche in Maroon Bowl last week.
It doesn’t sound like you “get it” at all. From what I’ve heard, at least one of you thinks he’s really cool for taking the “big ride” and “doing everything right.”
Are you kidding? Do you really believe your skiing/riding ability is why you’re alive today?
I suppose the more that we tell you how wrong you were for ignoring the Ski Patrol’s warnings, not to mention the headlines all week about the high avalanche danger in the backcountry, including two local deaths, the more you’re going to feel “empowered” for having taken the big risk and won.
Our community’s most respected mountaineers, who’ve climbed and skied locally and tackled the highest peaks in the world, are all shaking their heads – not in awe, mind you, but in disappointment. We all need heroes to look up to, but you’re not them.
If I sound like someone’s mother giving you a scolding, I am. I have two young children who are becoming beautiful skiers. I hope they do plenty of backcountry skiing in their lifetimes.
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I want them to experience the bowls on Independence Pass, first tracks on Sunshine Peak, Hayden in alpenglow, corn snow on Five Fingers, the first breathtaking turns on Garrett and so on. I want my children to educate themselves about snowpack and own the best equipment and survival gear.
I want them to look up to local mountaineers who can teach them about setting good examples in the mountains and having a healthy respect for them.
When my kids (ages 9 and 11) and I heard about your “big ride” on the radio this week on the way to school, you should have heard what they said about you. It wasn’t flattering and I encouraged them. They’ll find their role models elsewhere, thank-you-very-much.
I’m glad you didn’t get killed. I’m relieved you didn’t get buried and require a rescue. You probably didn’t think about the fact that people could get killed coming to dig you out. I wonder if having a “fireside chat” with Rick Deane someday about all the bodies he has hauled out of the backcountry might get your attention.
I hope your cavalier attitudes in public become more humble when you’re alone in bed at night, with nobody looking, hearing the roar of the avalanche in your mind, thanking God you’re alive.
And yes, ultimately, I hope you dream about and have many more backcountry skiing adventures in the future. More power to you and good LUCK.