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Near fatal ski incident



 
 
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Old February 23rd 04, 02:55 PM
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Default Near fatal ski incident

Near Fatal Ski Incident

Kim Lux
Feb. 21, 2004

Summary

An experienced skier experiences a potentially deadly incident while cross
country skiing. Danger lurks where you least expect it, when you least
expect it. The outdoors are a potentially dangerous place. Lessons
learned are shared at the end of the article. The entire day is discussed
in detail. See if you can spot where errors in judgment were made,
leading to the incident.

Story

My wife and I are experienced cross country/ ski tourers. Since Christmas
we had skied six times for 55 kms on a variety of ski trails: everything
from level track set trails to back country type jaunts. We've been doing
this sort of skiing for 10 years.

I've been trained in avalanche awareness. I've dug snow pits. I've
practiced avalanche receiver rescue, etc. I've been on a multi day back
country/telemark trip. I'm not a telemark pro by any means, but I used to
be able to link some nice turns, both in the back country and on ski
slopes.

I gave up "full on" telemark/back country skiing in recent years, in spite
of loving it. There were 26 people killed in the back country of Western
Canada last year . People with, arguably, as much or more experience and
training than I had. If they could succumb to an avalanche, so could I.
That was a risk I wasn't willing to take.

I changed my/our skiing habits to NOT include anything that had avalanche
risk. We sold our telemark equipment, purchased lighter cross country
equipment and vowed to be content sticking to more moderate/safe trails.
I also gave up telemarking both in the backcountry and at ski slopes for
snowboarding. It was a trade off I was willing to accept.

Our plan for the day was simple: we'd drive out to Lake Louise and spend
the day cross country skiing. My wife liked the sound of some of the
trails in the guide book. She was specifically interested in the "Plain
of Six Glaciers" trail.

The packing and drive to Lake Louise was uneventful.

In order to maximize our chances of finding a good ski trail, we stopped
in at the information center at Lake Louise. Several times we've traveled
to a ski trail only to find the conditions terrible, trail closed, etc. so
our standard practice is to visit information booths wherever possible.
Today was no different.

My wife was the lead decision maker in selecting the ski trail. She had a
trail in mind and I was happy to do whatever she wanted, as long as there
was a bit of challenge involved. I'll ski track set trails if there is
enough scenery/distance/elevation to get a good physical workout. I'll
ski unset trails. I'll ski just about anything. I just love skiing.

We arrived at the visitor's center, which was nearly empty, in spite of
having a very big display of plant/animal/geology information about the
area.

I approached the desk and started talking with a resource officer. My
wife, meanwhile went to the washroom. We chatted idly about ski
conditions in the area, trails we had done, etc. When my wife arrived at
the desk we started discussing potential trails in detail. The resource
officer had a large, detailed topo map under a piece of glass on his
kiosk. My wife stated that we wanted to ski the "Plain of Six Glaciers
Trail." He replied that it was a good choice, ie the scenery would be
nice and the trail condition was good, but that it had some avalanche
risk. It didn't necessarily cross any avalanche prone slopes, but it was
in the run out path of a few such slopes. Although the avalanche hazard
was rated low, the weather was going to be very mild and there was some
risk. We were not carrying transceivers and poles and thus we quickly
ruled out the trail, at least for this trip. Not that they would
necessarily help if you got caught in an avalanche runout ...

The resource officer then suggested a trail that we had already skied this
year: The Great Divide Trail. About 15kms long return, it was track set
and beautiful. We wanted something different.

He then suggested the Moraine Lake Road trail, which was the same as the
Great Divide trail, ie trackset, etc., but going in the opposite
direction. We weren't fussy on skiing track set trails again. We wanted
something that would lead us into a more pristine wilderness environment.

He then suggested the Paradise Valley trail, which was basically an
advanced cross country ski trail. We looked it over on the map and it
seemed pretty good. It lead skiers up a valley behind Lake Louise where
one could see several glaciers, mountain peaks, etc. The elevation gain
was minimal (250m) and very gradual. It followed a creek that fed from
several glaciers in the area. It looked perfect. My wife consulted the
guide book and it rated the trail as moderate.


One had to ski a few kms of the Moraine Lake trail to reach the trailhead
for the Paradise Valley trail. We drove to the Moraine Lake trail parking
lot, which was nearly full.

Our preparation was normal: change into ski clothes, pack the pack, wax
the skis, etc. We carry a small first aid kit, a knife, some extra
clothing (toque, mitts, etc), ski wax, etc.

I carry the pack. I'm a stronger skier than my wife. Although the pack
is fairly light (8 pounds), it would slow her down.

We generally don't carry a map. Today was an exception. My wife was
wearing a small fanny pack and she had a granola bar, map and water bottle
in it. The resource officer had given us a "tourist type" ski trail map
and she had brought it along.

Our issues with carrying and using a map are several. First of all, most
of the ski trails are fairly well marked. What this means is that there
is a sign post at most major intersections. Secondly, there are sometimes
several intersections, formal and in formal, in a small area and it can be
hard to know exactly which intersection you are at. Thirdly, we don't
carry a compass. I've got a great sense of direction. I have helped
people on the trail who have a compass but don't know how to use it find
their position on a map. Lastly, we are frequently skiing in trees, on
mountain sides, etc. where there aren't any sightlines to use a map and
compass.

We'd never been lost on any trip. Sometimes we didn't know exactly where
we were on the trail, but we always knew how to get back to where we
started.

I have a topo map of the Lake Louise area and we looked at it the previous
evening. We actually had an argument about the "Plain of Six Glaciers"
trail and I dug it up to prove my point. The trail skirted Lake Louise.
I was certain I had walked that trail many years ago and that it was a
paved path. I was certain there would be no ski trail, and if there was,
it would be downtrodden by non skiing pedestrians. That was frequently a
problem in Lake Louise, where the tourists are many and those with ski
knowledge were few. (The resource officer told us that there were in fact
two trails: the paved foot path and a real ski trail.)

I had briefly glanced at both the Moraine Lake Road trail and the Paradise
Valley trail the previous evening. I didn't give them any further thought
though.

Back in the parking lot, it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining
brightly. The temperature had warmed to about 0C. There wasn't any wind,
nor a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day for a ski.

I dressed lightly. I was wearing a pair of medium weight long underwear
under a light nylon shell pant. On my torso I had a long sleeve ski shirt
and a light nylon cycling jacket. I didn't wear anything on my hands,
although I had nylon mitt shells in the pack. I expected the day to warm
up considerably. I've been on ski trails in similar conditions where it
feels like 25C due to the intense sun radiation.

My wife dressed warmer. She was wearing a fleece jacket underneath a
GoreTex shell. I expected her to be too warm and have to shed clothing
along the way.

During our preparation, I noticed another couple pull in to the parking
lot across from us. I happened to glance up and notice that he was
putting on telemark boots and skis, equipped with cable bindings. I
wandered over and struck up a conversation. I asked him if he was going
to be telemarking. He said no, that was just the equipment he was going
to use. I looked at her equipment and saw the more standard fa NNN
boots, narrower skies. They might have had metal edges, but they weren't
for telemarking.

He asked me if I expected to see bears on the trail. Why, I asked. He
pointed out that we had our pepper spray in one of the mesh pouches on the
exterior of the pack. "Maybe it will come in handy if you run into a
disgruntled skier" he chided me. At least we removed the bear bells that
we had on last time we were skiing... It was nice to meet young friendly
skiers like ourselves. Little did I know that later in the day he would
help save my life.

Unlike the guy in the other couple, we were skiing on light equipment. I
have a pair of high end NNN combi boots. They are light and have great
ankle support. My skis were actually racing skis, 44mm wide with a lot of
camber. I waxed them with a big grip pocket. I was a pretty decent skier
and I could (and have) handled a wide variety of terrain with them. I've
often thought that those boots were as stiff and good as my old leather
telemark boots, which I no longer owned. My wife was equipped similarly
to me, but with a lesser quality boot and a wider, more all round ski.

We started out on the Moraine Lake trail. I had decent grip from my wax,
but my glide was a little short. I skied for about 5 minutes and looked
back for my wife, who was about 50 yards behind me. Her glide looked
quite short. Her skis had a considerable buildup of wax in the kick zone.
I ski skated back to her to check things out. She was fine. I was
usually the faster of us on the trail. We then continued on skiing the
Moraine Lake trail.

We skied up to a sign on the side of the road/trail that had a skier and
mountain bike symbol on it. This must be the trail head I thought. The
resource officer had told us there were 2 ways to get onto the Paradise
trail. I thought this was the first one. We stopped to discuss whether
to take this trail or the next one.

Meanwhile, the couple parked across from us in the parking lot skied up.
It turned out that they were going to ski Paradise Valley as well. They
had never skied it before. They thought this wasn't the trail head. They
thought it was farther ahead. We went along with their decision and I
decided that we could follow them.

We set off as an informal group. His female companion was leading the
group with him following her, then me and then my wife. I was surprised
by their speed on the trail, even for him with those wide skis. I could
keep up with my narrow track skis , but I wondered if I would have been
able to if I had wide skies like his. I'm a pretty strong skier. These
people were obviously experienced. My wife lagged behind. We talked as
we skied. The guy worked for Parks Canada as a "computer guy". He wasn't
an accomplished telemarker. He was actually a snowboarder, like I was.
He did backcountry snowboarding, something I've always wanted to try.

At one point on a downhill section I ski skated past the other couple,
turned around ski skated back to my wife. The two of us caught up to the
other couple at the road side trail head for Paradise Valley. They had
their topo map out and were comparing their map with the trail head map,
which was behind a piece of glass on the trail head information board.

I asked them about the trail and they confirmed this was the first trail
entrance point. The previous trail marker was for a different trail. I
found it hard to believe that the two trails wouldn't have joined given
how close they were, but I was happy to know we were at the "right" trail
head. There was still another trail head ahead of us that could be taken.
We decided to take this trail ahead and follow the other couple.

The trail started out with a steep climb between narrowly spaced trees.
The trail was totally skier set as I expected and liked. The initial
climb would have been perfect and easy on wide skis with skins. Being
that none of us had skins, we were side stepping and herring boning our
way up.

The snow was deep. My skis didn't have much flotation. If I stepped off
the packed portion of the trail, I sank shin deep into the snow.

Having done some backcountry skiing I was familiar with maneuvering in
situations like this. As the other couple progressed ahead of me, I
waited for my wife who was having a bit of difficulty in those steep/close
quarters. I secretly worried a bit about how we would ski out of this,
but there were tracks from others who had walked down in the deep snow, so
I thought we would be OK. Besides, the steep section was pretty short.

The trail then became a skier set single track through the forest.
Although it was narrow, the grade was gentle and there weren't very many
turns. There were no sharp turns. Wherever the trail had any steepness
the track was obliterated, worn out by people herring boning up and snow
plowing coming down. I found it manageable, almost easy, even with my
track skis.

I loved the trail. It reminded me of my days as a telemarker. It was
nice to be away from the "crowds" of the easier trails. The trail was
fast, on the verge of icy. Snow plowing with our light equipment was out
of the question, due to our skis and the width of the trail, but simply
running in the less packed part of the trail would slow one down enough to
control ones speed.

We had become separated from the other couple, but now we ran into them on
the trail again. He had his ski up on his shoulder and was applying
kicker wax. He didn't have much grip and asked me what was I was using.
I replied "Special Blue". He was using Extra Blue, if I recall correctly.
That explained some of the speed they had on the trail.

They proceeded on and I waited briefly for my wife to catch up.

For the next hour or so we played a game of cat and mouse with the other
couple. Whenever they stopped we would catch them. The day was sunny and
fairly mild. The trail was good. We were having a good day.

At some point the trail broke out of the forest to a creek in the valley.
There was a bridge that led to a trail on the other side of the creek.
It was there that we met the other couple again. At this point I learned
the guys name was Dale. His companion remarked that "we have to stop
meeting like this".

There was a small family having lunch on the bridge, in the sunshine. I
spoke with them briefly. They asked us how we came out on that side of
the bridge and about the trail we had taken. I told them we just started
at the road side trail head and followed the signs. They were on light
equipment ie the old 3 pin ski "shoes", with sweat pant type clothing. I
warned them that trail was tight and slippery. They had skied in on the
second trailhead, which they told us was open and easy. I made a mental
note that we should ski out on that trail.

The scenery in the valley was spectacular. The valley was about half a
mile wide, framed on both sides by forest, mountains and beautiful blue
sky. I loved skiing and this was why. The fresh air. The physical
exertion. The beautiful scenery. The company of my wife. The smiles.
The beautiful white snow. It was all here. It really was paradise
valley.

The other couple proceeded along the creek in front of us. We took a
quick water break and followed their direction.

The snow was much deeper and softer in the valley. I stopped to take some
pictures and quickly sank to my thighs in the soft snow WITH MY SKIS ON.
This was skiing heaven. I silently cursed not having heavier equipment,
at least wider skis. I should have known better.

We continued on up the valley along the creek for an hour and some. The
trail was open. We almost always had a view of the mountains and the
creek. We continued skiing the trail which traversed back and forth over
the creek and along its edges. We stopped a couple of times to take
pictures.

We could see quite a distance with the openness of the valley. From time
to time I'd catch a glimpse of the couple ahead of us as they skied around
a bluff or over a bridge.

At one point the trail entered a forest and the valley narrowed. The
temperature became very cold. In fact, I was borderline cold for the
whole trip. My nylon shell was too light for these conditions. I had
left my breathable shell jacket in the truck at the trail head. When we
entered the valley, I became quite cold. I didn't stop to don some of the
warmer clothing in my pack, but I did tell my wife I wanted to get out of
the forest and into the sunshine ASAP.

We met a few individuals along the trail. Most of them were the hard core
climbers and skiers. All were wearing wide skies, some were even wearing
mountain touring equipment, heavy plastic climbing boots with lockdown
bindings. One of the things you learn when you hang around mountain
venues like Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, etc. is that there is a WIDE
range of abilities in the climbing/ skiing/hiking/mountain biking world.
At one point we came upon the other couple again. Dale was talking with
a guy equipped with a big pack and wide skis. He'd just spent 3 days in
the backcountry skiing and climbing.

I kept a sharp eye out for avalanche hazards as we skied through the
forest. In particular the resource officer had warned us that we would be
crossing avalanche runout paths. He wasn't lying. In several sections of
the forest the trees were delimbed on the uphill side and whole sections
of forest were missing or replaced by young, small trees. The resource
officer had stated that the avalanche hazard was low and that a runout big
enough to reach the trail wouldn't occur this year because there simply
wasn't enough snow. I made sure that we didn't linger in the runout
zones.

At some point the trail broke out of the forest into a simply spectacular
segment of the valley. The sunshine was bright. The air temperature here
had warmed. The scenery was outstanding. We decided to stop for lunch.
At this point we were about 6 or 7 kms from the trail head parking lot.
We weren't at our ultimate destination in the valley, that being Lake
Annette, but this would do for now.

I was hungry. I was also still cold. I donned a warm toque and my nylon
mitt shells and started to warm up. We dug out our lunch and proceeded to
eat. My wife removed here skis and sat on them. I kept my skis on.

My wife remarked that we should get some heavier ski equipment again.

After lunch we dug out the camera and proceeded to take about 20 pictures
of the creek and the view. We were in paradise . We might as well
capture some of it for our picture collection. We skied back and forth
around and over the creek taking pictures from various angles of various
scenes. We discussed proceeding to Lake Annette and decided to forgo it.
At one point we thought we had passed it just before re entering the
forest. One never knows exactly what constitutes a lake in the mountains.
I've seen some ridiculously small bodies of water termed a lake.

We haphazardly decided to take a different return route. Instead of
skiing back in the forest, we followed a set of ski tracks along the
creek. The trail was easy. The snow was still very deep and soft. I
couldn't really use my ski poles, for example. When I pushed on them, they
simply broke through the crust and disappeared into the bottomless powder
below. We made great time on the first portion of our return trip and
enjoyed the scenery immensely.

At one point the trail entered the forest again and then broke out to the
bridge where we had last talked to the other couple. We were surprised
to see them standing at the bridge. We skied up and were greeted by
friendly smiles and warm conversation. It turns out that they had skied
to Lake Annette and were a little disappointed with the trip. Apparently
the final section to the lake was pretty steep and maybe not worth the
effort.

The topic turned to mountain biking and Dale and I started discussing
which trails were and weren't open to mountain biking in the Lake Louise
area. Dale joked that most of the resource officers in the area were
errr... umm... older and preferred horses to mountain bikes and thus most
of the trail were open for horseback riding, but not mountain biking. We
shared a chuckle about all the senior resource officers being "bow legged"
from riding horses all their life and needing a wider crankset on their
mountain bikes to be able to ride properly.

It turned out that Paradise Valley was open to mountain biking. My mind
salivated at the thought of riding the single track we had skied in on.

My thoughts turned to finding the 2nd trailhead ski route. I asked Dale
about it and he said they were skiing that route out. I was happy to hear
this. I asked Dale if they would wait for us at the intersections on the
way out and he agreed.

And so it was that we started skiing out of Paradise valley as a group.
The trail didn't look very formal. It wasn't marked. It followed the
creek, meandering here and there. The scenery was spectacular. The
weather was mild, the sky was blue, the skiing was easy. I had warmed up.
My wife was the slowest of the group, having little problems here and
there when the trail entered tight brush, but generally doing OK being the
trooper she is. I would alternately ski ahead and then stop at the harder
sections and help her through. Dale and his companion were waiting for us
at trail intersections. It was turning out to be an outstanding day.

The last section of trail turned out to be a little more difficult. We,
as a group, were following a slightly older trail that several people had
made. We came to a bridge that connected with the formal trail. Dale and
company were going to continue to follow the informal trail and I saw no
reason not to follow them. For one thing, I was hoping to avoid
descending the steep, narrow climb we had come in on. I wasn't sure
exactly where that climb was (I hadn't looked at a map since we lunch),
but Dale figured or knew this trail went straight to the Moraine Lake
road, just a bit farther up from the trailhead we started on. It sounded
good to me.

The trail started out as the last one, ie gentle, fast, deep snow, etc. We
were on a slight downhill grade and making excellent time. I was a bit
cheezed that we hadn't spent more time in the valley. At this rate our
ski was going to be ending too soon in the day and was too short given how
nice it was in the valley. It was only mid afternoon at the time. We
continued on in sheer bliss.

At some point the trail got significantly steeper, but not really steep.
It was like the steepness of a gentle green run at a ski resort. It was
just steep enough that you needed to control your speed and that was very
difficult to do with my narrow skis. The snow was still very deep and
soft and it became obvious to me that the people that made this trail were
on wide skis. You could see the skid marks they were making in the snow
as they turned and snowplowed.

At one point my speed got up and I stepped to the side of the packed trail
by a foot or two. I immediately sank and slowed significantly. Behind me
my wife was struggling, falling a time or two. She was a decent ski lift
telemarker, but this was her first time in powder and with her narrow skis
she didn't have a chance.

We weren't alone in falling. I saw Dales companion dig herself out of a
face plant about 50 yards in front of me. Her black fleece was white with
snow from her bail out.

I cursed not having telemark skis on. With such equipment I would have
been able to float down this grade, turning at will and enjoying the snow
instead of struggling with it. Actually, it donned on me that this
section of the valley would have been a perfect telemark slope for
learning. It was wide, it wasn't very steep and there wasn't any sign of
avalanche hazard.

My wife and I continued our pattern of skiing a ways, slowing our speed in
the deep snow, picking ourself up and skiing again. She was frustrated.
I 'd been through this routine once before on a telemark trip when my
binding kept snapping open... only then the powder was even deeper and
there were trees involved.

I couldn't see Dale in front of me, but he must have been having a blast.

And then it happened.

I was skiing over a knoll, near the trees on the side of the clearing,
trying to control my speed. The maker of the trail I was following either
snowplowed or turned and thus the trail wasn't packed very well. My skis
did their usual submarine routine as they had done about a dozen times
already that day. I remember them sinking to about shin depth when all
hell seemed to break loose.

I remember being flung forward and down really fast, like I was falling
more than face planting. I remember going deeper and deeper and then
hearing a roaring sound.

I IMMEDIATELY thought I had triggered an avalanche on the downhill side of
the knoll. My gut reaction was to initiate a swimming action, which I
did. My skis were still on. I was kicking my legs. My poles were
attached to my hands via the straps. I was doing a breaststroke as well
as I could to get to the top. Everything was white.

At some point I could still hear the roar, but nothing was happening. I
wasn't being pressed on heavily by snow. I could see light. I quickly
turned chest up and when I looked up I saw a large (6' high) wall of snow
about 4 feet uphill from me. I could still hear the roaring and I was
certain that some other part of the hill was avalanching . But still the
wall didn't move. All this happened in a matter of seconds. My arms were
free. I removed my glasses, which were clouding my vision, to get a
better view of my situation.

And then I looked down. Between my feet and my lower back was nothing but
a rushing creek. My feet and skis were perched on the interface between
the ice and the snow above the creek. My skis were strew at weird angles,
bending my feet and ankles and knees in every direction. My legs and butt
were spanning the section of the creek ice that was missing. I was semi
reclined on the opposite edge of the ice and snow. My lower and upper
back were pressing against a wall/ledge of snow on the other side of the
hole in the ice.

The very first thing I thought of was that nobody was going to find me. I
immediately yelled "HELP !" a few times at the top of my lungs. For those
that have never hiked with me, I have a tremendously loud voice. When we
hike in bear country I yell "Ha" at the top of my voice a few times every
minute. Hikers tell me they can hear me a mile way under the right
conditions. Frequently we can hear an echo off nearby mountains.

I heard my wife reply. She had heard me !

The next thing I did was take one of my ski poles and insert it into the
creek. It was about 3 feet deep. I couldn't risk standing up in it. For
the first time I understood my situation: If I lost my grip on the walls
of the "ice hole", I could fall into the water, slip under the ice and be
swept downstream by the current. I would surely drown. I kept the ski
pole at my side to take some of the strain off my lower back, which was
acting as a bridge between my feet and my torso. I moved my feet a bit,
but found their perch on the opposite wall to be tenuous, so I remained
still.

I didn't panic. I didn't ever think I wasn't going to get out of the
situation.

My wife then appeared on the uphill side of the hole. The uphill wall of
snow was about 6 feet above me. See didn't come close to the edge. She
asked me what to do. I told her to ski to the downhill side of the hole.
She then disappeared.

So this is what it feels like to be in a mountain incident.

After a period of apparent inactivity, I yelled "Help !" again. I turned
my head to the downhill side of the hole and was greeted to a great sight:
Dale was there. I forget exactly what he said. I felt foolish for
yelling so hard and so urgently, when he was probably right there.

The first thing Dale did was get his companion's skis and set them beside
the hole, above and to the side of my head. I could kind of reach them,
but I don't think I could have pulled myself up with them. I then handed
him my glasses which I was holding with my free hand !

Dale laid down on his stomach and instructed the women to hold his feet.
He reached down into the hole and tried to grab my arm. That didn't
really work because I was at an awkward angle and I couldn't really get a
decent grip on his jacket. I don't think he had a good grip on me either.
At some point he told me he was going to get me out.

He then grabbed my pack straps and held me up. I could then move my feet
without fear of falling into the creek. Things went quickly from then on.
I wiggled my feet around to get my skis off. I tried one binding release
button with my ski pole, but it wouldn't activate. I tried the other and
got the ski loose and passed it to Dale. I moved the first foot again and
the ski popped off, slid into the creek and was never seen again. Did I
forget to mention that there was a rushing creek beneath my butt while all
this happened ?

Dale then heaved me out of that hole. He moved me about 6 inches with his
first pull. I'm not a small guy ! I weigh about 195 pounds. Dale was
smaller than me. Luckily he didn't have to lift me directly up, only kind
of back and up and he didn't have to dead lift me, only kind of slide me
on the slope of the downhill wall/ledge. I helped as much as I could with
my feet, but I was still surprised at his strength. The pack straps were
an excellent place for him to pull. He had the women move back and regrip
his feet. He then pulled again. By this time my feet weren't touching
the other side of the wall and I was near on the top of the downhill side
of the hole, so I rolled over on my stomach and pulled with my hands when
he pulled. I was soon out of the hole.

Dale kept a cool head throughout the ordeal. He didn't panic. He acted
quickly. He might have saved my life.

So there we were. I was out of the hole. I was peeved that I had lost a
ski. We were all kind of in shock, but not shock like a trauma victim,
shock like how did we go from skiing to a deadly emergency in no time
flat. It was sort of surreal. Nobody was crying. It was like nothing
had happened, yet we knew that something had.

I hadn't even gotten wet ie I hadn't fallen into the water. My pack,
nylon jacket, etc. were wet from the snow, but I wasn't cold or shivering
or anything. My ankles and knees were fine. My lower back hurt a bit
from the awkward position I had to hold.

I wanted to venture near the hole and see if I could see some remnant of
my ski, but Dale dissuaded me. I wanted to take a picture of the hole,
but my wife didn't want me to. I think they thought I was in shock.

I stated that we should mark the ice hole so that someone doesn't follow
our tracks and ski into it. It was right below the lip of the knoll.
Dale trudged off into the bush to find something suitable.

My wife and I put on our skis and made our way down the hill. I was
skiing with one ski. My progress was very slow. I stuck to the packed
trail, dragging my free foot to control my speed. I couldn't stop or I
would fall over in the snow. My poles were just about useless. I
wondered if we were still skiing over the creek, but I wasn't frightened
or anything.

Luckily, we were only 100 yards or so from the Moraine Lake Road trail,
which was packed and trackset. From the tail, I skied the several kms to
the parking lot by kicking with my ski-less foot and gliding with my ski.
It was a awkward and tiring, but I make steady progress. Dale and his
companion passed us on the trail. They asked me what my name was. We
stopped and talked about the situation a bit. We still couldn't believe
what had just happened.

Dale and his companion were pretty much packed up when my wife and I
reached the parking lot. I removed my ski and pack and we walked over and
talked with them. I shook Dales hand and thanked him for his bravery and
coolness.

Dale suggested that the incident needed to be reported. Without changing
out of our ski gear, we drove to the Information Center and relayed our
incident to the resource officer. Ironically, it was the same officer
that gave us the trail info. On his topo map we could plainly see that
from the last bridge on we were skiing on what amounted to an overgrown
creek.

For whatever reason, during the last segment of our trip, it had never
crossed my mind that we were skiing on the creek anymore. I'm not sure
that Dale and his companion knew that we were skiing on the creek or not.
Later my wife commented that she had heard the creek sounds while skiing,
but I hadn't.

The resource officer phoned his superior and they sent someone to check
out the incident scene.

We changed out of our ski clothes and drove home.

Prologue

a) I'm not sure how to feel about the incident.

Was it really a near death experience ? It only took 10 minutes from
start to finish. I hadn't been hurt or even gotten wet.

On the other hand, things could have turned out a lot differently. What
if more of the creek ice had broken through ? I could have plunged head
first into the creek, gotten pulled under the ice by the current and
drown. What if my wife and I were skiing alone. Would have we found a
way to get me out ? Could have I stood up in the creek without being
washed away ? Was the creek bottom slick or icy ?

I didn't readily fall asleep the night of the incident. I kept replaying
the facts over and over in my mind. When I was near sleep, I kept
imagining the seemingly huge uphill wall of snow peering over me.

b) Ski in groups.

This incident has caused us to rethink some of our outdoor adventure
habits. My wife and I usually travel alone as a couple. Is this a safe
practice ? How capable are the two of us at rescuing each other from
various back country hazards ? We spend a lot of time in the backcountry,
in various seasons, hiking, biking and skiing. How prone are we to having
an accident where two people aren't enough to cope with it ?

c) Nature doesn't post warning signs.

Nothing about skiing that track on that day raised ANY warning signs in my
mind. For whatever reason it never occurred to me that the creek had
continued in our direction past the last bridge. I hadn't checked a map.
I was following the other couple and the tracks of the people that had
went before us. Nobody in our group thought we were prone to breaking
through the creek ice. Yes, we had made subtle mistakes on other parts of
our trip ie not dressing warm enough, poor route finding, incorrect
equipment, but we knew and could see those mistakes. There were no
telltale warning signs about skiing over the creek.

d) What other chances have we been taking ? Had I not chosen to step off
that trail in that particular place, we might have skied out without ever
knowing the danger that lurked on that trail. The people that made the
tracks had.

How many other times in the past have we escaped a potentially dangerous
situation without realizing it ? We mountain bike all the time. We've
come across fresh bear scat on trails. We ride downhills fairly fast. We
ride 10 or more kms out into the wilderness and only see a handful of
people the whole day. How many times has a bear been lurking in the
shadows ? We hike all the time. We sometimes worry about others on the
trails: example: old couple on the steep peak behind Canmore. Example:
two girls alone on Redearth Creek, not making a sound. I often wonder
what would happen to our grip on some steep rock trails if we got rained
on by a sudden shower. What about lightning strikes ? What about loose
rock falling while scrambling for some of the peaks we hike. What if a
fall should occur ?

Aside: we skied to Boom Lake a few weeks ago. We followed a skier track
across a portion of the lake. I was wondering how stable the ice was on
that traverse.

f) ALWAYS CARRY A MAP. ALWAYS KNOW WHERE YOU ARE.

I guess we've learned this lesson the hard way. We'll be buying a GPS
receiver and carrying a topo map on all future trips. It is just too
dangerous to guess where you are.

g) Additions to our pack.

We'll be adding he following items to our pack:

1) rope. My wife could have easily assisted my rescue by tying a rope to
a nearby tree, allowing me to pull myself out of the hole. The rope
needn't be climbing quality, nor terribly long. 2) flashlights. Sooner or
later we are going to get caught out on a trail after dark. We frequently
plan our trips to be back at our vehicle well before darkness sets in, but
what if something went wrong ? 3) Whistles, on our jackets, maybe air
horns on our mountain bikes. I happen to have a good voice and got the
attention of both my wife and Dale. What if they hadn't heard me ? 4) GPS
receiver and map.
5) Reflective blanket. Had I fallen through the ice and gotten wet, I
would have been a prime candidate for hypothermia.

h) Don't ski over creeks or rivers.

i) The right equipment.

j) What if a ski breaks ? What if a bike breaks down ?

Skis and bikes in particular allow people to travel large distances
relatively easily. What if one broke a ski back in Paradise Valley ? The
snow was up to my waist or deeper in some areas. How would one get back
without a ski ? What if one bent a rim on a mountain bike in the middle
of no where ? It is one thing to cycle 20kms, but quite another to walk
that distance.

k) Don't trust other people on the trail ? Other people's judgment ?

I lay NO blame for this incident on Dale and his companion. Under
different circumstances, Dale could have broken through the ice just as
easily as I did. He didn't know where the creek lie, even if he did know
the creek was under the trail we had selected. He had skied the same
trail I had.



Danger doesn't just jump out at you. You have to be looking for it. You
have to be constantly watching for signs. Don't ignore them.


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Old February 23rd 04, 07:09 PM
Chris Cline
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Default Near fatal ski incident

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Hi Kim-
I read thru your post with interest because I recently got myself into a similar "crossing the line but not realizing it" situation. Like you, I got out OK, but spent a considerable amount of time afterwards trying to identify the points where errors in our party's judgement had "created" the incident. I also understand that the first little bit after the incident, you're freaked, and maybe even in a little bit of mild post-traumatic shock as you piece it all together and make sense of it.

I think that the biggest error in judgement that I can see in your story is not having the proper equipment. As I read thru it, I was expecting to hear something along the lines of hitting trees, being delayed to the point that lack of food and adequate clothing created a situation with hypothermia, etc. A good rule of thumb is that if you're wearing track gear, at least 80% of your route should be on groomed, set tracks (spring crust skiing notwithstanding). While I totally understand the urge to keep on keeping on on a glorious day, having difficulties with your gear on the way up should translate into a decision at some point that you simply don't have the right tools for the job and should turn around. It does sound like you kept that in mind, as at least you didn't press on to the lake and points further out, and create a situation where you had to ski out in difficult terrain in the dark.

As far as maps, compasses, etc. I'm not sure that carrying (or using these more) would have helped you as much as being totally, continually aware of your surroundings. A map can tell you there's a creek if it occurs to you to look for it; otherwise you're as likely to miss it on the map as anywhere else. It sounds like you had a high level of awareness regarding avalanches; I'd suggest that you extend that to everything else about your surroundings. If you cross a bridge, that obviously means there's water around somewhere- where's the creek. Just keep observing and keeping an inventory of these things. Another example of reading terrain to stay out of trouble: Are the slopes above you made of smooth rock layers? Afternoon glide avalanches off these rocks (which can occur during very "low" avalanche danger relative to normal avalanche triggers) have killed several people in Utah. "Terrain traps" are also something to avoid like the plague-- I normally think of them!
in terms
of getting caught in avalanche runout or debris in one, but after your post, I will think of things like water and falling in holes. By the way, if you're up above timberline in a talus area, a big hole between boulders will mess you up just as much as a hole in a creek-- I have the scar on my shin to prove it.

As far as "was this all this serious? am I over reacting?" Hell, yeah. and Hell, no. a meter of rushing water going under ice is serious business. If you never saw your ski again, where do you think you would go? You were very lucky, not least because you were lucky enough to inadvertently increase your group size to be appropriate for your ski trip.

Should you and your wife ski alone? It depends. On that trail, with that equipment, and in those conditions, and with that particular route choice, I'd say that "no" is a pretty obvious answer. But you could ski alone if you made the mental decision to exercise the "bail" option at a more conservative decision-making point. It sounds like you basically blundered into a bad situation because you thought you were taking everything into account and then found out that you weren't. I know this because I'm relatively fresh from my own experience with this process.

My guarantee: your freak-out level will decrease, and your level of awareness will increase, and you will become a safer skiier. And you will still love the mountains, trees, sky, snow, etc. But you'll probably either restrict your skiing to more "conservative" terrain (fixed tracks and established trails), or get better skis and more experience in that terrain.

by the way-- I strongly suggest (if you're going to go with option B, above), that you take an avalanche class because a) conditions change, and b) visitor center-bound rangers may or may not be good sources of information about avalanches. Also, another error I saw is that for the area and terrain you were in, a shovel, avalanche beacon, and knowledge of how to use the latter would have been a good thing. I've bailed on tours just because I forgot my beacon.


Me wrote:
Near Fatal Ski Incident

Kim Lux
Feb. 21, 2004

Summary

An experienced skier experiences a potentially deadly incident while cross
country skiing. Danger lurks where you least expect it, when you least
expect it. The outdoors are a potentially dangerous place. Lessons
learned are shared at the end of the article. The entire day is discussed
in detail. See if you can spot where errors in judgment were made,
leading to the incident.

Story

My wife and I are experienced cross country/ ski tourers. Since Christmas
we had skied six times for 55 kms on a variety of ski trails: everything
from level track set trails to back country type jaunts. We've been doing
this sort of skiing for 10 years.

I've been trained in avalanche awareness. I've dug snow pits. I've
practiced avalanche receiver rescue, etc. I've been on a multi day back
country/telemark trip. I'm not a telemark pro by any means, but I used to
be able to link some nice turns, both in the back country and on ski
slopes.

I gave up "full on" telemark/back country skiing in recent years, in spite
of loving it. There were 26 people killed in the back country of Western
Canada last year . People with, arguably, as much or more experience and
training than I had. If they could succumb to an avalanche, so could I.
That was a risk I wasn't willing to take.

I changed my/our skiing habits to NOT include anything that had avalanche
risk. We sold our telemark equipment, purchased lighter cross country
equipment and vowed to be content sticking to more moderate/safe trails.
I also gave up telemarking both in the backcountry and at ski slopes for
snowboarding. It was a trade off I was willing to accept.

Our plan for the day was simple: we'd drive out to Lake Louise and spend
the day cross country skiing. My wife liked the sound of some of the
trails in the guide book. She was specifically interested in the "Plain
of Six Glaciers" trail.

The packing and drive to Lake Louise was uneventful.

In order to maximize our chances of finding a good ski trail, we stopped
in at the information center at Lake Louise. Several times we've traveled
to a ski trail only to find the conditions terrible, trail closed, etc. so
our standard practice is to visit information booths wherever possible.
Today was no different.

My wife was the lead decision maker in selecting the ski trail. She had a
trail in mind and I was happy to do whatever she wanted, as long as there
was a bit of challenge involved. I'll ski track set trails if there is
enough scenery/distance/elevation to get a good physical workout. I'll
ski unset trails. I'll ski just about anything. I just love skiing.

We arrived at the visitor's center, which was nearly empty, in spite of
having a very big display of plant/animal/geology information about the
area.

I approached the desk and started talking with a resource officer. My
wife, meanwhile went to the washroom. We chatted idly about ski
conditions in the area, trails we had done, etc. When my wife arrived at
the desk we started discussing potential trails in detail. The resource
officer had a large, detailed topo map under a piece of glass on his
kiosk. My wife stated that we wanted to ski the "Plain of Six Glaciers
Trail." He replied that it was a good choice, ie the scenery would be
nice and the trail condition was good, but that it had some avalanche
risk. It didn't necessarily cross any avalanche prone slopes, but it was
in the run out path of a few such slopes. Although the avalanche hazard
was rated low, the weather was going to be very mild and there was some
risk. We were not carrying transceivers and poles and thus we quickly
ruled out the trail, at least for this trip. Not that they would
necessarily help if you got caught in an avalanche runout ...

The resource officer then suggested a trail that we had already skied this
year: The Great Divide Trail. About 15kms long return, it was track set
and beautiful. We wanted something different.

He then suggested the Moraine Lake Road trail, which was the same as the
Great Divide trail, ie trackset, etc., but going in the opposite
direction. We weren't fussy on skiing track set trails again. We wanted
something that would lead us into a more pristine wilderness environment.

He then suggested the Paradise Valley trail, which was basically an
advanced cross country ski trail. We looked it over on the map and it
seemed pretty good. It lead skiers up a valley behind Lake Louise where
one could see several glaciers, mountain peaks, etc. The elevation gain
was minimal (250m) and very gradual. It followed a creek that fed from
several glaciers in the area. It looked perfect. My wife consulted the
guide book and it rated the trail as moderate.


One had to ski a few kms of the Moraine Lake trail to reach the trailhead
for the Paradise Valley trail. We drove to the Moraine Lake trail parking
lot, which was nearly full.

Our preparation was normal: change into ski clothes, pack the pack, wax
the skis, etc. We carry a small first aid kit, a knife, some extra
clothing (toque, mitts, etc), ski wax, etc.

I carry the pack. I'm a stronger skier than my wife. Although the pack
is fairly light (8 pounds), it would slow her down.

We generally don't carry a map. Today was an exception. My wife was
wearing a small fanny pack and she had a granola bar, map and water bottle
in it. The resource officer had given us a "tourist type" ski trail map
and she had brought it along.

Our issues with carrying and using a map are several. First of all, most
of the ski trails are fairly well marked. What this means is that there
is a sign post at most major intersections. Secondly, there are sometimes
several intersections, formal and in formal, in a small area and it can be
hard to know exactly which intersection you are at. Thirdly, we don't
carry a compass. I've got a great sense of direction. I have helped
people on the trail who have a compass but don't know how to use it find
their position on a map. Lastly, we are frequently skiing in trees, on
mountain sides, etc. where there aren't any sightlines to use a map and
compass.

We'd never been lost on any trip. Sometimes we didn't know exactly where
we were on the trail, but we always knew how to get back to where we
started.

I have a topo map of the Lake Louise area and we looked at it the previous
evening. We actually had an argument about the "Plain of Six Glaciers"
trail and I dug it up to prove my point. The trail skirted Lake Louise.
I was certain I had walked that trail many years ago and that it was a
paved path. I was certain there would be no ski trail, and if there was,
it would be downtrodden by non skiing pedestrians. That was frequently a
problem in Lake Louise, where the tourists are many and those with ski
knowledge were few. (The resource officer told us that there were in fact
two trails: the paved foot path and a real ski trail.)

I had briefly glanced at both the Moraine Lake Road trail and the Paradise
Valley trail the previous evening. I didn't give them any further thought
though.

Back in the parking lot, it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining
brightly. The temperature had warmed to about 0C. There wasn't any wind,
nor a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day for a ski.

I dressed lightly. I was wearing a pair of medium weight long underwear
under a light nylon shell pant. On my torso I had a long sleeve ski shirt
and a light nylon cycling jacket. I didn't wear anything on my hands,
although I had nylon mitt shells in the pack. I expected the day to warm
up considerably. I've been on ski trails in similar conditions where it
feels like 25C due to the intense sun radiation.

My wife dressed warmer. She was wearing a fleece jacket underneath a
GoreTex shell. I expected her to be too warm and have to shed clothing
along the way.

During our preparation, I noticed another couple pull in to the parking
lot across from us. I happened to glance up and notice that he was
putting on telemark boots and skis, equipped with cable bindings. I
wandered over and struck up a conversation. I asked him if he was going
to be telemarking. He said no, that was just the equipment he was going
to use. I looked at her equipment and saw the more standard fa NNN
boots, narrower skies. They might have had metal edges, but they weren't
for telemarking.

He asked me if I expected to see bears on the trail. Why, I asked. He
pointed out that we had our pepper spray in one of the mesh pouches on the
exterior of the pack. "Maybe it will come in handy if you run into a
disgruntled skier" he chided me. At least we removed the bear bells that
we had on last time we were skiing... It was nice to meet young friendly
skiers like ourselves. Little did I know that later in the day he would
help save my life.

Unlike the guy in the other couple, we were skiing on light equipment. I
have a pair of high end NNN combi boots. They are light and have great
ankle support. My skis were actually racing skis, 44mm wide with a lot of
camber. I waxed them with a big grip pocket. I was a pretty decent skier
and I could (and have) handled a wide variety of terrain with them. I've
often thought that those boots were as stiff and good as my old leather
telemark boots, which I no longer owned. My wife was equipped similarly
to me, but with a lesser quality boot and a wider, more all round ski.

We started out on the Moraine Lake trail. I had decent grip from my wax,
but my glide was a little short. I skied for about 5 minutes and looked
back for my wife, who was about 50 yards behind me. Her glide looked
quite short. Her skis had a considerable buildup of wax in the kick zone.
I ski skated back to her to check things out. She was fine. I was
usually the faster of us on the trail. We then continued on skiing the
Moraine Lake trail.

We skied up to a sign on the side of the road/trail that had a skier and
mountain bike symbol on it. This must be the trail head I thought. The
resource officer had told us there were 2 ways to get onto the Paradise
trail. I thought this was the first one. We stopped to discuss whether
to take this trail or the next one.

Meanwhile, the couple parked across from us in the parking lot skied up.
It turned out that they were going to ski Paradise Valley as well. They
had never skied it before. They thought this wasn't the trail head. They
thought it was farther ahead. We went along with their decision and I
decided that we could follow them.

We set off as an informal group. His female companion was leading the
group with him following her, then me and then my wife. I was surprised
by their speed on the trail, even for him with those wide skis. I could
keep up with my narrow track skis , but I wondered if I would have been
able to if I had wide skies like his. I'm a pretty strong skier. These
people were obviously experienced. My wife lagged behind. We talked as
we skied. The guy worked for Parks Canada as a "computer guy". He wasn't
an accomplished telemarker. He was actually a snowboarder, like I was.
He did backcountry snowboarding, something I've always wanted to try.

At one point on a downhill section I ski skated past the other couple,
turned around ski skated back to my wife. The two of us caught up to the
other couple at the road side trail head for Paradise Valley. They had
their topo map out and were comparing their map with the trail head map,
which was behind a piece of glass on the trail head information board.

I asked them about the trail and they confirmed this was the first trail
entrance point. The previous trail marker was for a different trail. I
found it hard to believe that the two trails wouldn't have joined given
how close they were, but I was happy to know we were at the "right" trail
head. There was still another trail head ahead of us that could be taken.
We decided to take this trail ahead and follow the other couple.

The trail started out with a steep climb between narrowly spaced trees.
The trail was totally skier set as I expected and liked. The initial
climb would have been perfect and easy on wide skis with skins. Being
that none of us had skins, we were side stepping and herring boning our
way up.

The snow was deep. My skis didn't have much flotation. If I stepped off
the packed portion of the trail, I sank shin deep into the snow.

Having done some backcountry skiing I was familiar with maneuvering in
situations like this. As the other couple progressed ahead of me, I
waited for my wife who was having a bit of difficulty in those steep/close
quarters. I secretly worried a bit about how we would ski out of this,
but there were tracks from others who had walked down in the deep snow, so
I thought we would be OK. Besides, the steep section was pretty short.

The trail then became a skier set single track through the forest.
Although it was narrow, the grade was gentle and there weren't very many
turns. There were no sharp turns. Wherever the trail had any steepness
the track was obliterated, worn out by people herring boning up and snow
plowing coming down. I found it manageable, almost easy, even with my
track skis.

I loved the trail. It reminded me of my days as a telemarker. It was
nice to be away from the "crowds" of the easier trails. The trail was
fast, on the verge of icy. Snow plowing with our light equipment was out
of the question, due to our skis and the width of the trail, but simply
running in the less packed part of the trail would slow one down enough to
control ones speed.

We had become separated from the other couple, but now we ran into them on
the trail again. He had his ski up on his shoulder and was applying
kicker wax. He didn't have much grip and asked me what was I was using.
I replied "Special Blue". He was using Extra Blue, if I recall correctly.
That explained some of the speed they had on the trail.

They proceeded on and I waited briefly for my wife to catch up.

For the next hour or so we played a game of cat and mouse with the other
couple. Whenever they stopped we would catch them. The day was sunny and
fairly mild. The trail was good. We were having a good day.

At some point the trail broke out of the forest to a creek in the valley.
There was a bridge that led to a trail on the other side of the creek.
It was there that we met the other couple again. At this point I learned
the guys name was Dale. His companion remarked that "we have to stop
meeting like this".

There was a small family having lunch on the bridge, in the sunshine. I
spoke with them briefly. They asked us how we came out on that side of
the bridge and about the trail we had taken. I told them we just started
at the road side trail head and followed the signs. They were on light
equipment ie the old 3 pin ski "shoes", with sweat pant type clothing. I
warned them that trail was tight and slippery. They had skied in on the
second trailhead, which they told us was open and easy. I made a mental
note that we should ski out on that trail.

The scenery in the valley was spectacular. The valley was about half a
mile wide, framed on both sides by forest, mountains and beautiful blue
sky. I loved skiing and this was why. The fresh air. The physical
exertion. The beautiful scenery. The company of my wife. The smiles.
The beautiful white snow. It was all here. It really was paradise
valley.

The other couple proceeded along the creek in front of us. We took a
quick water break and followed their direction.

The snow was much deeper and softer in the valley. I stopped to take some
pictures and quickly sank to my thighs in the soft snow WITH MY SKIS ON.
This was skiing heaven. I silently cursed not having heavier equipment,
at least wider skis. I should have known better.

We continued on up the valley along the creek for an hour and some. The
trail was open. We almost always had a view of the mountains and the
creek. We continued skiing the trail which traversed back and forth over
the creek and along its edges. We stopped a couple of times to take
pictures.

We could see quite a distance with the openness of the valley. From time
to time I'd catch a glimpse of the couple ahead of us as they skied around
a bluff or over a bridge.

At one point the trail entered a forest and the valley narrowed. The
temperature became very cold. In fact, I was borderline cold for the
whole trip. My nylon shell was too light for these conditions. I had
left my breathable shell jacket in the truck at the trail head. When we
entered the valley, I became quite cold. I didn't stop to don some of the
warmer clothing in my pack, but I did tell my wife I wanted to get out of
the forest and into the sunshine ASAP.

We met a few individuals along the trail. Most of them were the hard core
climbers and skiers. All were wearing wide skies, some were even wearing
mountain touring equipment, heavy plastic climbing boots with lockdown
bindings. One of the things you learn when you hang around mountain
venues like Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, etc. is that there is a WIDE
range of abilities in the climbing/ skiing/hiking/mountain biking world.
At one point we came upon the other couple again. Dale was talking with
a guy equipped with a big pack and wide skis. He'd just spent 3 days in
the backcountry skiing and climbing.

I kept a sharp eye out for avalanche hazards as we skied through the
forest. In particular the resource officer had warned us that we would be
crossing avalanche runout paths. He wasn't lying. In several sections of
the forest the trees were delimbed on the uphill side and whole sections
of forest were missing or replaced by young, small trees. The resource
officer had stated that the avalanche hazard was low and that a runout big
enough to reach the trail wouldn't occur this year because there simply
wasn't enough snow. I made sure that we didn't linger in the runout
zones.

At some point the trail broke out of the forest into a simply spectacular
segment of the valley. The sunshine was bright. The air temperature here
had warmed. The scenery was outstanding. We decided to stop for lunch.
At this point we were about 6 or 7 kms from the trail head parking lot.
We weren't at our ultimate destination in the valley, that being Lake
Annette, but this would do for now.

I was hungry. I was also still cold. I donned a warm toque and my nylon
mitt shells and started to warm up. We dug out our lunch and proceeded to
eat. My wife removed here skis and sat on them. I kept my skis on.

My wife remarked that we should get some heavier ski equipment again.

After lunch we dug out the camera and proceeded to take about 20 pictures
of the creek and the view. We were in paradise . We might as well
capture some of it for our picture collection. We skied back and forth
around and over the creek taking pictures from various angles of various
scenes. We discussed proceeding to Lake Annette and decided to forgo it.
At one point we thought we had passed it just before re entering the
forest. One never knows exactly what constitutes a lake in the mountains.
I've seen some ridiculously small bodies of water termed a lake.

We haphazardly decided to take a different return route. Instead of
skiing back in the forest, we followed a set of ski tracks along the
creek. The trail was easy. The snow was still very deep and soft. I
couldn't really use my ski poles, for example. When I pushed on them, they
simply broke through the crust and disappeared into the bottomless powder
below. We made great time on the first portion of our return trip and
enjoyed the scenery immensely.

At one point the trail entered the forest again and then broke out to the
bridge where we had last talked to the other couple. We were surprised
to see them standing at the bridge. We skied up and were greeted by
friendly smiles and warm conversation. It turns out that they had skied
to Lake Annette and were a little disappointed with the trip. Apparently
the final section to the lake was pretty steep and maybe not worth the

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DIVHi Kim-/DIV
DIVI read thru your post with interest because I recently got myself into a similar "crossing the line but not realizing it" situation.  Like you, I got out OK, but spent a considerable amount of time afterwards trying to identify the points where errors in our party's judgement had "created" the incident.  I also understand that the first little bit after the incident, you're freaked, and maybe even in a little bit of mild post-traumatic shock as you piece it all together and make sense of it./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVI think that the biggest error in judgement that I can see in your story is not having the proper equipment.  As I read thru it, I was expecting to hear something along the lines of hitting trees, being delayed to the point that lack of food and adequate clothing created a situation with hypothermia, etc.  A good rule of thumb is that if you're wearing track gear, at least 80% of your route should be on groomed, set tracks (spring crust skiing notwithstanding).  While I totally understand the urge to keep on keeping on on a glorious day, having difficulties with your gear on the way up should translate into a decision at some point that you simply don't have the right tools for the job and should turn around.  It does sound like you kept that in mind, as at least you didn't press on to the lake and points further out, and create a situation where you had to ski out in difficult terrain in the dark./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVAs far as maps, compasses, etc.  I'm not sure that carrying (or using these more) would have helped you as much as being totally, continually aware of your surroundings.  A map can tell you there's a creek if it occurs to you to look for it; otherwise you're as likely to miss it on the map as anywhere else.  It sounds like you had a high level of awareness regarding avalanches; I'd suggest that you extend that to everything else about your surroundings.  If you cross a bridge, that obviously means there's water around somewhere- where's the creek.  Just keep observing and keeping an inventory of these things.  Another example of reading terrain to stay out of trouble:  Are the slopes above you made of smooth rock layers?  Afternoon glide avalanches off these rocks (which can occur during very "low" avalanche danger relative to normal avalanche triggers) have killed several people in Utah.  "Terrain traps" are also something t!
o avoid
like the plague-- I normally think of them in terms of getting caught in avalanche runout or debris in one, but after your post, I will think of things like water and falling in holes.  By the way, if you're up above timberline in a talus area, a big hole between boulders will mess you up just as much as a hole in a creek-- I have the scar on my shin to prove it./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVAs far as "was this all this serious?  am I over reacting?"  Hell, yeah. and Hell, no.  a meter of rushing water going under ice is serious business.  If you never saw your ski again, where do you think you would go?  You were very lucky, not least because you were lucky enough to inadvertently increase your group size to be appropriate for your ski trip./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVShould you and your wife ski alone?  It depends.  On that trail, with that equipment, and in those conditions, and with that particular route choice, I'd say that "no" is a pretty obvious answer.  But you could ski alone if you made the mental decision to exercise the "bail" option at a more conservative decision-making point.  It sounds like you basically blundered into a bad situation because you thought you were taking everything into account and then found out that you weren't.  I know this because I'm relatively fresh from my own experience with this process./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVMy guarantee:  your freak-out level will decrease, and your level of awareness will increase, and you will become a safer skiier.  And you will still love the mountains, trees, sky, snow, etc.  But you'll probably either restrict your skiing to more "conservative" terrain (fixed tracks and established trails), or get better skis and more experience in that terrain./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVby the way-- I strongly suggest (if you're going to go with option B, above), that you take an avalanche class because a) conditions change, and b) visitor center-bound rangers may or may not be good sources of information about avalanches.  Also, another error I saw is that for the area and terrain you were in, a shovel, avalanche beacon, and knowledge of how to use the latter would have been a good thing.  I've bailed on tours just because I forgot my beacon./DIV
DIVBRBRBIMe >/I/B wrote:/DIV
BLOCKQUOTE class=replbq style="PADDING-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; BORDER-LEFT: #1010ff 2px solid"Near Fatal Ski IncidentBRBRKim LuxBRFeb. 21, 2004BRBRSummaryBRBRAn experienced skier experiences a potentially deadly incident while crossBRcountry skiing. Danger lurks where you least expect it, when you leastBRexpect it. The outdoors are a potentially dangerous place. LessonsBRlearned are shared at the end of the article. The entire day is discussedBRin detail. See if you can spot where errors in judgment were made,BRleading to the incident.BRBRStoryBRBRMy wife and I are experienced cross country/ ski tourers. Since ChristmasBRwe had skied six times for 55 kms on a variety of ski trails: everythingBRfrom level track set trails to back country type jaunts. We've been doingBRthis sort of skiing for 10 years.BRBRI've been trained in avalanche awareness. I've dug snow pits. I'veBRpracticed avalanche receiver rescue, etc. I've been on !
a multi
day backBRcountry/telemark trip. I'm not a telemark pro by any means, but I used toBRbe able to link some nice turns, both in the back country and on skiBRslopes.BRBRI gave up "full on" telemark/back country skiing in recent years, in spiteBRof loving it. There were 26 people killed in the back country of WesternBRCanada last year . People with, arguably, as much or more experience andBRtraining than I had. If they could succumb to an avalanche, so could I. BRThat was a risk I wasn't willing to take.BRBRI changed my/our skiing habits to NOT include anything that had avalancheBRrisk. We sold our telemark equipment, purchased lighter cross countryBRequipment and vowed to be content sticking to more moderate/safe trails. BRI also gave up telemarking both in the backcountry and at ski slopes forBRsnowboarding. It was a trade off I was willing to accept.BRBROur plan for the day was simple: we'd drive out to Lake Louise and spendBRthe day cross!
country
skiing. My wife liked the sound of some of theBRtrails in the guide book. She was specifically interested in the "PlainBRof Six Glaciers" trail.BRBRThe packing and drive to Lake Louise was uneventful.BRBRIn order to maximize our chances of finding a good ski trail, we stoppedBRin at the information center at Lake Louise. Several times we've traveledBRto a ski trail only to find the conditions terrible, trail closed, etc. soBRour standard practice is to visit information booths wherever possible. BRToday was no different.BRBRMy wife was the lead decision maker in selecting the ski trail. She had aBRtrail in mind and I was happy to do whatever she wanted, as long as thereBRwas a bit of challenge involved. I'll ski track set trails if there isBRenough scenery/distance/elevation to get a good physical workout. I'llBRski unset trails. I'll ski just about anything. I just love skiing.BRBRWe arrived at the visitor's center, which was nearly empt!
y, in
spite ofBRhaving a very big display of plant/animal/geology information about theBRarea.BRBRI approached the desk and started talking with a resource officer. MyBRwife, meanwhile went to the washroom. We chatted idly about skiBRconditions in the area, trails we had done, etc. When my wife arrived atBRthe desk we started discussing potential trails in detail. The resourceBRofficer had a large, detailed topo map under a piece of glass on hisBRkiosk. My wife stated that we wanted to ski the "Plain of Six GlaciersBRTrail." He replied that it was a good choice, ie the scenery would beBRnice and the trail condition was good, but that it had some avalancheBRrisk. It didn't necessarily cross any avalanche prone slopes, but it wasBRin the run out path of a few such slopes. Although the avalanche hazardBRwas rated low, the weather was going to be very mild and there was someBRrisk. We were not carrying transceivers and poles and thus we quicklyBRruled !
out the
trail, at least for this trip. Not that they wouldBRnecessarily help if you got caught in an avalanche runout ...BRBRThe resource officer then suggested a trail that we had already skied thisBRyear: The Great Divide Trail. About 15kms long return, it was track setBRand beautiful. We wanted something different.BRBRHe then suggested the Moraine Lake Road trail, which was the same as theBRGreat Divide trail, ie trackset, etc., but going in the oppositeBRdirection. We weren't fussy on skiing track set trails again. We wantedBRsomething that would lead us into a more pristine wilderness environment.BRBRHe then suggested the Paradise Valley trail, which was basically anBRadvanced cross country ski trail. We looked it over on the map and itBRseemed pretty good. It lead skiers up a valley behind Lake Louise whereBRone could see several glaciers, mountain peaks, etc. The elevation gainBRwas minimal (250m) and very gradual. It followed a creek that fed
fromBRseveral glaciers in the area. It looked perfect. My wife consulted theBRguide book and it rated the trail as moderate.BRBRBROne had to ski a few kms of the Moraine Lake trail to reach the trailheadBRfor the Paradise Valley trail. We drove to the Moraine Lake trail parkingBRlot, which was nearly full.BRBROur preparation was normal: change into ski clothes, pack the pack, waxBRthe skis, etc. We carry a small first aid kit, a knife, some extraBRclothing (toque, mitts, etc), ski wax, etc.BRBRI carry the pack. I'm a stronger skier than my wife. Although the packBRis fairly light (8 pounds), it would slow her down.BRBRWe generally don't carry a map. Today was an exception. My wife wasBRwearing a small fanny pack and she had a granola bar, map and water bottleBRin it. The resource officer had given us a "tourist type" ski trail mapBRand she had brought it along.BRBROur issues with carrying and using a map are several. First of all, m!
ostBRof
the ski trails are fairly well marked. What this means is that thereBRis a sign post at most major intersections. Secondly, there are sometimesBRseveral intersections, formal and in formal, in a small area and it can beBRhard to know exactly which intersection you are at. Thirdly, we don'tBRcarry a compass. I've got a great sense of direction. I have helpedBRpeople on the trail who have a compass but don't know how to use it findBRtheir position on a map. Lastly, we are frequently skiing in trees, onBRmountain sides, etc. where there aren't any sightlines to use a map andBRcompass.BRBRWe'd never been lost on any trip. Sometimes we didn't know exactly whereBRwe were on the trail, but we always knew how to get back to where weBRstarted.BRBRI have a topo map of the Lake Louise area and we looked at it the previousBRevening. We actually had an argument about the "Plain of Six Glaciers"BRtrail and I dug it up to prove my point. The trail skirted L!
ake
Louise. BRI was certain I had walked that trail many years ago and that it was aBRpaved path. I was certain there would be no ski trail, and if there was,BRit would be downtrodden by non skiing pedestrians. That was frequently aBRproblem in Lake Louise, where the tourists are many and those with skiBRknowledge were few. (The resource officer told us that there were in factBRtwo trails: the paved foot path and a real ski trail.)BRBRI had briefly glanced at both the Moraine Lake Road trail and the ParadiseBRValley trail the previous evening. I didn't give them any further thoughtBRthough.BRBRBack in the parking lot, it was a beautiful day. The sun was shiningBRbrightly. The temperature had warmed to about 0C. There wasn't any wind,BRnor a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day for a ski.BRBRI dressed lightly. I was wearing a pair of medium weight long underwear BRunder a light nylon shell pant. On my torso I had a long sleeve ski shirtBRand!
a light
nylon cycling jacket. I didn't wear anything on my hands,BRalthough I had nylon mitt shells in the pack. I expected the day to warmBRup considerably. I've been on ski trails in similar conditions where itBRfeels like 25C due to the intense sun radiation.BRBRMy wife dressed warmer. She was wearing a fleece jacket underneath aBRGoreTex shell. I expected her to be too warm and have to shed clothingBRalong the way.BRBRDuring our preparation, I noticed another couple pull in to the parkingBRlot across from us. I happened to glance up and notice that he wasBRputting on telemark boots and skis, equipped with cable bindings. IBRwandered over and struck up a conversation. I asked him if he was goingBRto be telemarking. He said no, that was just the equipment he was goingBRto use. I looked at her equipment and saw the more standard fa NNNBRboots, narrower skies. They might have had metal edges, but they weren'tBRfor telemarking.BRBRHe asked me i!
f I
expected to see bears on the trail. Why, I asked. HeBRpointed out that we had our pepper spray in one of the mesh pouches on theBRexterior of the pack. "Maybe it will come in handy if you run into aBRdisgruntled skier" he chided me. At least we removed the bear bells thatBRwe had on last time we were skiing... It was nice to meet young friendlyBRskiers like ourselves. Little did I know that later in the day he wouldBRhelp save my life.BRBRUnlike the guy in the other couple, we were skiing on light equipment. IBRhave a pair of high end NNN combi boots. They are light and have greatBRankle support. My skis were actually racing skis, 44mm wide with a lot ofBRcamber. I waxed them with a big grip pocket. I was a pretty decent skierBRand I could (and have) handled a wide variety of terrain with them. I'veBRoften thought that those boots were as stiff and good as my old leatherBRtelemark boots, which I no longer owned. My wife was equipped similarlyBR!
to me,
but with a lesser quality boot and a wider, more all round ski.BRBRWe started out on the Moraine Lake trail. I had decent grip from my wax,BRbut my glide was a little short. I skied for about 5 minutes and lookedBRback for my wife, who was about 50 yards behind me. Her glide lookedBRquite short. Her skis had a considerable buildup of wax in the kick zone.BRI ski skated back to her to check things out. She was fine. I wasBRusually the faster of us on the trail. We then continued on skiing theBRMoraine Lake trail.BRBRWe skied up to a sign on the side of the road/trail that had a skier andBRmountain bike symbol on it. This must be the trail head I thought. TheBRresource officer had told us there were 2 ways to get onto the ParadiseBRtrail. I thought this was the first one. We stopped to discuss whetherBRto take this trail or the next one.BRBRMeanwhile, the couple parked across from us in the parking lot skied up. BRIt turned out that they were!
going to
ski Paradise Valley as well. TheyBRhad never skied it before. They thought this wasn't the trail head. TheyBRthought it was farther ahead. We went along with their decision and IBRdecided that we could follow them.BRBRWe set off as an informal group. His female companion was leading theBRgroup with him following her, then me and then my wife. I was surprisedBRby their speed on the trail, even for him with those wide skis. I couldBRkeep up with my narrow track skis , but I wondered if I would have beenBRable to if I had wide skies like his. I'm a pretty strong skier. TheseBRpeople were obviously experienced. My wife lagged behind. We talked asBRwe skied. The guy worked for Parks Canada as a "computer guy". He wasn'tBRan accomplished telemarker. He was actually a snowboarder, like I was. BRHe did backcountry snowboarding, something I've always wanted to try.BRBRAt one point on a downhill section I ski skated past the other couple,BRturned aroun!
d ski
skated back to my wife. The two of us caught up to theBRother couple at the road side trail head for Paradise Valley. They hadBRtheir topo map out and were comparing their map with the trail head map,BRwhich was behind a piece of glass on the trail head information board.BRBRI asked them about the trail and they confirmed this was the first trailBRentrance point. The previous trail marker was for a different trail. IBRfound it hard to believe that the two trails wouldn't have joined givenBRhow close they were, but I was happy to know we were at the "right" trailBRhead. There was still another trail head ahead of us that could be taken.BRWe decided to take this trail ahead and follow the other couple.BRBRThe trail started out with a steep climb between narrowly spaced trees. BRThe trail was totally skier set as I expected and liked. The initialBRclimb would have been perfect and easy on wide skis with skins. BeingBRthat none of us had skins, we !
were side
stepping and herring boning ourBRway up.BRBRThe snow was deep. My skis didn't have much flotation. If I stepped offBRthe packed portion of the trail, I sank shin deep into the snow.BRBRHaving done some backcountry skiing I was familiar with maneuvering inBRsituations like this. As the other couple progressed ahead of me, IBRwaited for my wife who was having a bit of difficulty in those steep/closeBRquarters. I secretly worried a bit about how we would ski out of this,BRbut there were tracks from others who had walked down in the deep snow, soBRI thought we would be OK. Besides, the steep section was pretty short.BRBRThe trail then became a skier set single track through the forest. BRAlthough it was narrow, the grade was gentle and there weren't very manyBRturns. There were no sharp turns. Wherever the trail had any steepnessBRthe track was obliterated, worn out by people herring boning up and snowBRplowing coming down. I found it manageabl!
e, almost
easy, even with myBRtrack skis.BRBRI loved the trail. It reminded me of my days as a telemarker. It wasBRnice to be away from the "crowds" of the easier trails. The trail wasBRfast, on the verge of icy. Snow plowing with our light equipment was outBRof the question, due to our skis and the width of the trail, but simplyBRrunning in the less packed part of the trail would slow one down enough toBRcontrol ones speed.BRBRWe had become separated from the other couple, but now we ran into them onBRthe trail again. He had his ski up on his shoulder and was applyingBRkicker wax. He didn't have much grip and asked me what was I was using. BRI replied "Special Blue". He was using Extra Blue, if I recall correctly.BRThat explained some of the speed they had on the trail.BRBRThey proceeded on and I waited briefly for my wife to catch up.BRBRFor the next hour or so we played a game of cat and mouse with the otherBRcouple. Whenever they stopped we w!
ould
catch them. The day was sunny andBRfairly mild. The trail was good. We were having a good day.BRBRAt some point the trail broke out of the forest to a creek in the valley. BRThere was a bridge that led to a trail on the other side of the creek. BRIt was there that we met the other couple again. At this point I learnedBRthe guys name was Dale. His companion remarked that "we have to stopBRmeeting like this".BRBRThere was a small family having lunch on the bridge, in the sunshine. IBRspoke with them briefly. They asked us how we came out on that side ofBRthe bridge and about the trail we had taken. I told them we just startedBRat the road side trail head and followed the signs. They were on lightBRequipment ie the old 3 pin ski "shoes", with sweat pant type clothing. IBRwarned them that trail was tight and slippery. They had skied in on theBRsecond trailhead, which they told us was open and easy. I made a mentalBRnote that we should ski out on !
that
trail.BRBRThe scenery in the valley was spectacular. The valley was about half aBRmile wide, framed on both sides by forest, mountains and beautiful blueBRsky. I loved skiing and this was why. The fresh air. The physicalBRexertion. The beautiful scenery. The company of my wife. The smiles. BRThe beautiful white snow. It was all here. It really was paradiseBRvalley.BRBRThe other couple proceeded along the creek in front of us. We took aBRquick water break and followed their direction.BRBRThe snow was much deeper and softer in the valley. I stopped to take someBRpictures and quickly sank to my thighs in the soft snow WITH MY SKIS ON. BRThis was skiing heaven. I silently cursed not having heavier equipment,BRat least wider skis. I should have known better.BRBRWe continued on up the valley along the creek for an hour and some. TheBRtrail was open. We almost always had a view of the mountains and theBRcreek. We continued skiing the trail whi!
ch
traversed back and forth overBRthe creek and along its edges. We stopped a couple of times to takeBRpictures.BRBRWe could see quite a distance with the openness of the valley. From timeBRto time I'd catch a glimpse of the couple ahead of us as they skied aroundBRa bluff or over a bridge.BRBRAt one point the trail entered a forest and the valley narrowed. TheBRtemperature became very cold. In fact, I was borderline cold for theBRwhole trip. My nylon shell was too light for these conditions. I hadBRleft my breathable shell jacket in the truck at the trail head. When weBRentered the valley, I became quite cold. I didn't stop to don some of theBRwarmer clothing in my pack, but I did tell my wife I wanted to get out ofBRthe forest and into the sunshine ASAP.BRBRWe met a few individuals along the trail. Most of them were the hard coreBRclimbers and skiers. All were wearing wide skies, some were even wearingBRmountain touring equipment, heavy pl!
astic
climbing boots with lockdownBRbindings. One of the things you learn when you hang around mountainBRvenues like Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, etc. is that there is a WIDEBRrange of abilities in the climbing/ skiing/hiking/mountain biking world. BRAt one point we came upon the other couple again. Dale was talking withBRa guy equipped with a big pack and wide skis. He'd just spent 3 days inBRthe backcountry skiing and climbing.BRBRI kept a sharp eye out for avalanche hazards as we skied through theBRforest. In particular the resource officer had warned us that we would beBRcrossing avalanche runout paths. He wasn't lying. In several sections ofBRthe forest the trees were delimbed on the uphill side and whole sectionsBRof forest were missing or replaced by young, small trees. The resourceBRofficer had stated that the avalanche hazard was low and that a runout bigBRenough to reach the trail wouldn't occur this year because there simplyBRwasn't enough!
snow. I
made sure that we didn't linger in the runoutBRzones.BRBRAt some point the trail broke out of the forest into a simply spectacularBRsegment of the valley. The sunshine was bright. The air temperature hereBRhad warmed. The scenery was outstanding. We decided to stop for lunch. BRAt this point we were about 6 or 7 kms from the trail head parking lot. BRWe weren't at our ultimate destination in the valley, that being LakeBRAnnette, but this would do for now.BRBRI was hungry. I was also still cold. I donned a warm toque and my nylonBRmitt shells and started to warm up. We dug out our lunch and proceeded toBReat. My wife removed here skis and sat on them. I kept my skis on.BRBRMy wife remarked that we should get some heavier ski equipment again.BRBRAfter lunch we dug out the camera and proceeded to take about 20 picturesBRof the creek and the view. We were in paradise . We might as wellBRcapture some of it for our picture collection. We skied !
back and
forthBRaround and over the creek taking pictures from various angles of variousBRscenes. We discussed proceeding to Lake Annette and decided to forgo it. BRAt one point we thought we had passed it just before re entering theBRforest. One never knows exactly what constitutes a lake in the mountains.BRI've seen some ridiculously small bodies of water termed a lake.BRBRWe haphazardly decided to take a different return route. Instead ofBRskiing back in the forest, we followed a set of ski tracks along theBRcreek. The trail was easy. The snow was still very deep and soft. IBRcouldn't really use my ski poles, for example. When I pushed on them, theyBRsimply broke through the crust and disappeared into the bottomless powderBRbelow. We made great time on the first portion of our return trip andBRenjoyed the scenery immensely.BRBRAt one point the trail entered the forest again and then broke out to theBRbridge where we had last talked to the other cou!
ple. We
were surprisedBRto see them standing at the bridge. We skied up and were greeted byBRfriendly smiles and warm conversation. It turns out that they had skiedBRto Lake Annette and were a little disappointed with the trip. ApparentlyBRthe final section to the lake was pretty steep and maybe not worth theBRBR=== message truncated ===/BLOCKQUOTEphr SIZE=1
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  #3  
Old February 24th 04, 05:09 PM
Me
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Default Near fatal ski incident

Comments below.

Kim

On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 12:09:24 -0800, Chris Cline wrote:

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Hi Kim-
I read thru your post with interest because I recently got myself into a
similar "crossing the line but not realizing it" situation. Like you, I
got out OK, but spent a considerable amount of time afterwards trying to
identify the points where errors in our party's judgement had "created"
the incident.


Just like I did...


I also understand that the first little bit after the
incident, you're freaked, and maybe even in a little bit of mild
post-traumatic shock as you piece it all together and make sense of it.


I actually wasn't that freaked. I replayed the incident, yes, but I
almost felt guilty as if I wasn't giving it enough seriousness. Even now,
it is a few days later and I've mostly forgotten it. Am I giving it the
attention it deserves ? It is weird...


I think that the biggest error in judgement that I can see in your story
is not having the proper equipment.


Agreed. And yet except for the last section I skied without problems. I
had "submerging sessions", but other than that I was well within my
limits. I guess you can't go by "being mostly OK", you have to have
equipment for being OK even in the extreme conditions.


As I read thru it, I was expecting to
hear something along the lines of hitting trees, being delayed to the
point that lack of food and adequate clothing created a situation with
hypothermia, etc.


That is the point: any of those things COULD happen on a typical ski day.
We don't carry enough gear to stay out overnight. We don't wear helmets.
We do ski on tight trails in the trees.

A good rule of thumb is that if you're wearing track
gear, at least 80% of your route should be on groomed, set tracks (spring
crust skiing notwithstanding).


That is probably a good rule of thumb.

While I totally understand the urge to
keep on keeping on on a glorious day, having difficulties with your gear
on the way up should translate into a decision at some point that you
simply don't have the right tools for the job and should turn around. It
does sound like you kept that in mind, as at least you didn't press on to
the lake and points further out, and create a situation where you had to
ski out in difficult terrain in the dark.


Agreed.


As far as maps, compasses, etc. I'm not sure that carrying (or using
these more) would have helped you as much as being totally, continually
aware of your surroundings. A map can tell you there's a creek if it
occurs to you to look for it; otherwise you're as likely to miss it on the
map as anywhere else.


Had we a *detailed* map, we could have checked the route at the last
bridge. I don't know if seeing a creek on the map would have meant much.
I guess the thing to watch is that if you see a creek on the map and you
can't physically see the creek, you are probably skiing ON IT !

It sounds like you had a high level of awareness
regarding avalanches; I'd suggest that you extend that to everything else
about your surroundings. If you cross a bridge, that obviously means
there's water around somewhere- where's the creek.


Yeah.

Just keep observing
and keeping an inventory of these things. Another example of reading
terrain to stay out of trouble: Are the slopes above you made of smooth
rock layers? Afternoon glide avalanches off these rocks (which can occur
during very "low" avalanche danger relative to normal avalanche triggers)
have killed several people in Utah.


They've done that here too: a slide about 15 years ago happened really
early in the season. All the snow slid right off a layer of lush grass.
The snow didn't slide on the snow, it slid on the grass.

"Terrain traps" are also something to
avoid like the plague-- I normally think of them!
in terms
of getting caught in avalanche runout or debris in one, but after your
post, I will think of things like water and falling in holes.


Good. I'm glad this helped someone.


By the
way, if you're up above timberline in a talus area, a big hole between
boulders will mess you up just as much as a hole in a creek-- I have the
scar on my shin to prove it.


We get "tree wells" here. The snow will swirl around a short tree and not
really fill in properly. Over winter the snow covers it, but as soon as
you ski over that tree, you'll sink like a stone.

As far as "was this all this serious? am I over reacting?" Hell, yeah.
and Hell, no. a meter of rushing water going under ice is serious
business. If you never saw your ski again, where do you think you would
go?


My thoughts exactly. If I had gotten under the ice, I wouldn't be here
today.

You were very lucky, not least because you were lucky enough to
inadvertently increase your group size to be appropriate for your ski
trip.


The group size was a bonus, but I'm pretty sure that we wouldn't have
taken that trail if it was just the two of us. Yes, it was great having
Dale there !

Should you and your wife ski alone? It depends. On that trail, with that
equipment, and in those conditions, and with that particular route choice,
I'd say that "no" is a pretty obvious answer.


Hind sight is 20/20... how do we make that decision in the future ?


But you could ski alone if
you made the mental decision to exercise the "bail" option at a more
conservative decision-making point.


Agreed, *IF* one is seeing and accurately accessing the risk. How often
are we missing the risk factors ?

It sounds like you basically
blundered into a bad situation because you thought you were taking
everything into account and then found out that you weren't. I know this
because I'm relatively fresh from my own experience with this process.


Yep.

My guarantee: your freak-out level will decrease, and your level of
awareness will increase, and you will become a safer skiier.


Agreed.

And you will
still love the mountains, trees, sky, snow, etc.


Doubly agreed.

But you'll probably
either restrict your skiing to more "conservative" terrain (fixed tracks
and established trails),


probably not.

or get better skis and more experience in that
terrain.


I'll use different equipment AND implement some of the things I spoke of
in the article.

by the way-- I strongly suggest (if you're going to go with option B,
above), that you take an avalanche class because a) conditions change, and
b) visitor center-bound rangers may or may not be good sources of
information about avalanches.


I'm fully avalanche trained.

Also, another error I saw is that for the
area and terrain you were in, a shovel, avalanche beacon, and knowledge of
how to use the latter would have been a good thing. I've bailed on tours
just because I forgot my beacon.


I gave the beacon some thought, but about the only place we had the
potential to get caught was in a BIG runout. Under such conditions, I
doubt a beacon would have helped - you'd be dead.

A shovel on the other hand might be wise for reasons other than
avalanches.

  #4  
Old February 24th 04, 08:03 PM
Griss
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Default Near fatal ski incident

Since you asked 8-)

To me, you made some mistakes which totally belie your claim of backcountry
experience. It's foolish to go on any backcountry trip, summer or winter,
without a layer of clothes above what you're wearing when exercising as well
as some decent food and drink - and some matches. This is probably the most
basic, well known and generally accepted principle and doesn't involve more
than a pound or so. You need to stay warm when you stop - whether that be
for a planned break or if you're shut down for any accidental reason. Do
you understand how quickly you'd have become hypothermic if you'd had to
stop for even 30 minutes in near freezing temps with the clothes you had?
How about if you were stuck over night? Theres' many stories about folks
who die under similar conditions, I'm not exaggerating. I'm sure you can
think of 100 common reasons a forced delay could happen. To me a warm hat
and nylon mitts don't count, or at best are only a tiny portion of what you
need . To me, the minimum for a backcountry tour is an *extra* jacket
(beyond what you're wearing when working), an extra warm*er* hat, warm mitts
and probably some zip up shell pants. I have no problem adding a pound or
two on a day tour - it's only exercise after all.

I don't see any food beyond a minimal snack, but I could have missed it.

These were your most extreme and foolish greenhorn-type mistakes- which I
don't see that you've acknowledged at all. The thing that happened (into
the creek) is among the things, in my opinion, that could happen with even
great preparation (which you admit you didn't have). You seem to have
focused on skis, map and such but I hesitate to fault you much for those
things because I really think that those were fairly minor error judgements.
But to go out on a trip like that without some means for keeping warm and
energized in case of any small incident is really inexcusable - especially
since you were in unkown country (to you) and when you started, you really
had absolutely no idea if you could reasonably expect support and assistance
from anyone in a timely manner.

Are you sorry you asked?

Grissy


  #5  
Old February 24th 04, 10:54 PM
Chris Cline
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Default Near fatal ski incident

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Both Gene and Griss have made some excellent replies to this email and to the attitude that may underlie it, so I'll keep my "response to my response" much briefer than either the original post and my first reply. But I think that there are a few things in here that stand to be repeated.

And this isn't just for backcountry skiiers. Some of us out there may be into long skate tours, where, despite the groomed track, changing weather and unpredictable conditions still exist.

Chris

Me wrote:

Comments below.

Kim

On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 12:09:24 -0800, Chris Cline wrote:

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Hi Kim-
I read thru your post with interest because I recently got myself into a
similar "crossing the line but not realizing it" situation. Like you, I
got out OK, but spent a considerable amount of time afterwards trying to
identify the points where errors in our party's judgement had "created"
the incident.


Just like I did...


I also understand that the first little bit after the
incident, you're freaked, and maybe even in a little bit of mild
post-traumatic shock as you piece it all together and make sense of it.


I actually wasn't that freaked. I replayed the incident, yes, but I
almost felt guilty as if I wasn't giving it enough seriousness. Even now,
it is a few days later and I've mostly forgotten it. Am I giving it the
attention it deserves ? It is weird...

Now I'm wondering if you're somewhat in denial about the whole thing. I would still classify an incident where your ski disappeared into a freezing void, and you would have except for luck (certainly not planning in terms of group size, staying together, etc) as "serious."


I think that the biggest error in judgement that I can see in your story
is not having the proper equipment.


Agreed. And yet except for the last section I skied without problems. I
had "submerging sessions", but other than that I was well within my
limits. I guess you can't go by "being mostly OK", you have to have
equipment for being OK even in the extreme conditions.

As Griss pointed out, being "mostly OK" is like being "sort of pregnant." You're either prepared or your aren't. In your case, given where you went (and what you knew about the route before you went), you were not prepared-- plain and simple. Your wife could have as easily wrapped herself around a tree as you nearly drowning. Look at it this way: you managed to extricate yourself from a situation in which you were not prepared.
As I read thru it, I was expecting to
hear something along the lines of hitting trees, being delayed to the
point that lack of food and adequate clothing created a situation with
hypothermia, etc.


That is the point: any of those things COULD happen on a typical ski day.
We don't carry enough gear to stay out overnight. We don't wear helmets.
We do ski on tight trails in the trees.

A good rule of thumb is that if you're wearing track
gear, at least 80% of your route should be on groomed, set tracks (spring
crust skiing notwithstanding).


That is probably a good rule of thumb.

While I totally understand the urge to
keep on keeping on on a glorious day, having difficulties with your gear
on the way up should translate into a decision at some point that you
simply don't have the right tools for the job and should turn around. It
does sound like you kept that in mind, as at least you didn't press on to
the lake and points further out, and create a situation where you had to
ski out in difficult terrain in the dark.


Agreed.


As far as maps, compasses, etc. I'm not sure that carrying (or using
these more) would have helped you as much as being totally, continually
aware of your surroundings. A map can tell you there's a creek if it
occurs to you to look for it; otherwise you're as likely to miss it on the
map as anywhere else.


Had we a *detailed* map, we could have checked the route at the last
bridge. I don't know if seeing a creek on the map would have meant much.
I guess the thing to watch is that if you see a creek on the map and you
can't physically see the creek, you are probably skiing ON IT !


A map is a thing to CHECK where you are-- it is not your primary method of gathering information about an area. For that, use your EYES/ears/ other senses. Much more immediate, and you don't have to think about stopping and getting them out of your pack. Again, you could have looked at the map and totally missed the significance of the creek, because you weren't thinking about it. And that's the point.


It sounds like you had a high level of awareness
regarding avalanches; I'd suggest that you extend that to everything else
about your surroundings. If you cross a bridge, that obviously means
there's water around somewhere- where's the creek.


Yeah.

Just keep observing
and keeping an inventory of these things. Another example of reading
terrain to stay out of trouble: Are the slopes above you made of smooth
rock layers? Afternoon glide avalanches off these rocks (which can occur
during very "low" avalanche danger relative to normal avalanche triggers)
have killed several people in Utah.


They've done that here too: a slide about 15 years ago happened really
early in the season. All the snow slid right off a layer of lush grass.
The snow didn't slide on the snow, it slid on the grass.

"Terrain traps" are also something to
avoid like the plague-- I normally think of them!
in terms
of getting caught in avalanche runout or debris in one, but after your
post, I will think of things like water and falling in holes.


Good. I'm glad this helped someone.


By the
way, if you're up above timberline in a talus area, a big hole between
boulders will mess you up just as much as a hole in a creek-- I have the
scar on my shin to prove it.


We get "tree wells" here. The snow will swirl around a short tree and not
really fill in properly. Over winter the snow covers it, but as soon as
you ski over that tree, you'll sink like a stone.

As far as "was this all this serious? am I over reacting?" Hell, yeah.
and Hell, no. a meter of rushing water going under ice is serious
business. If you never saw your ski again, where do you think you would
go?


My thoughts exactly. If I had gotten under the ice, I wouldn't be here
today.

You were very lucky, not least because you were lucky enough to
inadvertently increase your group size to be appropriate for your ski
trip.


The group size was a bonus, but I'm pretty sure that we wouldn't have
taken that trail if it was just the two of us. Yes, it was great having
Dale there !

Should you and your wife ski alone? It depends. On that trail, with that
equipment, and in those conditions, and with that particular route choice,
I'd say that "no" is a pretty obvious answer.


Hind sight is 20/20... how do we make that decision in the future ?

Learn from your mistakes.


But you could ski alone if
you made the mental decision to exercise the "bail" option at a more
conservative decision-making point.


Agreed, *IF* one is seeing and accurately accessing the risk. How often
are we missing the risk factors ? Hopefully less frequently as we get more experience and learn, but the only way to miss all of the risk factors is to stay home.

It sounds like you basically
blundered into a bad situation because you thought you were taking
everything into account and then found out that you weren't. I know this
because I'm relatively fresh from my own experience with this process.


Yep.

My guarantee: your freak-out level will decrease, and your level of
awareness will increase, and you will become a safer skiier.


Agreed.

And you will
still love the mountains, trees, sky, snow, etc.


Doubly agreed.

But you'll probably
either restrict your skiing to more "conservative" terrain (fixed tracks
and established trails),


probably not.

or get better skis and more experience in that
terrain.


I'll use different equipment AND implement some of the things I spoke of
in the article.

by the way-- I strongly suggest (if you're going to go with option B,
above), that you take an avalanche class because a) conditions change, and
b) visitor center-bound rangers may or may not be good sources of
information about avalanches.


I'm fully avalanche trained.

Also, another error I saw is that for the
area and terrain you were in, a shovel, avalanche beacon, and knowledge of
how to use the latter would have been a good thing. I've bailed on tours
just because I forgot my beacon.


I gave the beacon some thought, but about the only place we had the
potential to get caught was in a BIG runout. Under such conditions, I
doubt a beacon would have helped - you'd be dead.

These two replies are in contradiction to each other! It seems that the only outcome you're considering for getting caught in a slide runout zone is "certain death." In this case, I guess your "what's the use" attitude would be useful, and would save oh, maybe 2 pounds in your pack (and what's with your wife not being able to carry 8 pounds???). So imagine this scenario. Your wife (not you) gets caught in a runout slide, and after the search and rescue people eventually dig her out (which may take a while, because sometimes they are reluctant to put themselves in danger to dig a body out), they find out that she was likely alive for 30-60 minutes before succumbing to hypothermia and anoxia. How does that beacon and shovel decision sound now? And ask yourself if you're really "fully avalanche trained."

A shovel on the other hand might be wise for reasons other than
avalanches.

Maybe using it to knock some sense into yourself? ;- )


Having read your replies, I think you really need to re-examine your assumptions. The most dangerous assumption that we can make is that we're in control -- especially in areas with high "objective danger"-- a climbing term to note things that you can't do anything about- storms, rockfall, avalanches-- in areas where you willingly go because you want to (plain and simple- no other reason to do it.


Sorry to be so hard on you-- consider it tough love.

Chris Cline

SLC, UT





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DIVBoth Gene and Griss have made some excellent replies to this email and to the attitude that may underlie it, so I'll keep my "response to my response" much briefer than either the original post and my first reply.  But I think that there are a few things in here that stand to be repeated./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVAnd this isn't just for backcountry skiiers.  Some of us out there may be into long skate tours, where, despite the groomed track, changing weather and unpredictable conditions still exist./DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVChrisBRBRBIMe >/I/B wrote:/DIV
BLOCKQUOTE class=replbq style="PADDING-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; BORDER-LEFT: #1010ff 2px solid"
PComments below. BRBRKim BRBROn Mon, 23 Feb 2004 12:09:24 -0800, Chris Cline wrote:BRBR> --0-1714733143-1077561139=:60387BR> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-asciiBR> BR> Hi Kim-BR> I read thru your post with interest because I recently got myself into aBR> similar "crossing the line but not realizing it" situation. Like you, IBR> got out OK, but spent a considerable amount of time afterwards trying toBR> identify the points where errors in our party's judgement had "created"BR> the incident. BRBRJust like I did... BRBRBRI also understand that the first little bit after theBR> incident, you're freaked, and maybe even in a little bit of mildBR> post-traumatic shock as you piece it all together and make sense of it.BRBRI actually wasn't that freaked. I replayed the incident, yes, but IBRalmost felt guilty as if I wasn't giving it enough seriousness. Even now,BRit is a few days later and I'!
ve mostly
forgotten it. Am I giving it theBRattention it deserves ? It is weird... BRBREMNow I'm wondering if you're somewhat in denial about the whole thing.  I would still classify an incident where your ski disappeared into a freezing void, and you would have except for luck (certainly not planning in terms of group size, staying together, etc) as "serious."/EM/PEM/EM
PBR> I think that the biggest error in judgement that I can see in your storyBR> is not having the proper equipment. BRBRAgreed. And yet except for the last section I skied without problems. IBRhad "submerging sessions", but other than that I was well within myBRlimits. I guess you can't go by "being mostly OK", you have to haveBRequipment for being OK even in the extreme conditions. BRBREMAs Griss pointed out, being "mostly OK" is like being "sort of pregnant."  You're either prepared or your aren't.  In your case, given where you went (and what you knew about the route before you went), you were not prepared-- plain and simple.  Your wife could have as easily wrapped herself around a tree as you nearly drowning.  Look at it this way:  you managed to extricate yourself from a situation in which you were not prepared./EMBRAs I read thru it, I was expecting toBR> hear something along the lines of hitting trees, bei!
ng
delayed to theBR> point that lack of food and adequate clothing created a situation withBR> hypothermia, etc. BRBRThat is the point: any of those things COULD happen on a typical ski day. BRWe don't carry enough gear to stay out overnight. We don't wear helmets. BRWe do ski on tight trails in the trees. BRBRA good rule of thumb is that if you're wearing trackBR> gear, at least 80% of your route should be on groomed, set tracks (springBR> crust skiing notwithstanding). BRBRThat is probably a good rule of thumb. BRBRWhile I totally understand the urge toBR> keep on keeping on on a glorious day, having difficulties with your gearBR> on the way up should translate into a decision at some point that youBR> simply don't have the right tools for the job and should turn around. ItBR> does sound like you kept that in mind, as at least you didn't press on toBR> the lake and points further out, and create a situation whe!
re you
had toBR> ski out in difficult terrain in the dark.BRBRAgreed. BRBRBR> As far as maps, compasses, etc. I'm not sure that carrying (or usingBR> these more) would have helped you as much as being totally, continuallyBR> aware of your surroundings. A map can tell you there's a creek if itBR> occurs to you to look for it; otherwise you're as likely to miss it on theBR> map as anywhere else. BRBRHad we a *detailed* map, we could have checked the route at the lastBRbridge. I don't know if seeing a creek on the map would have meant much. BRI guess the thing to watch is that if you see a creek on the map and youBRcan't physically see the creek, you are probably skiing ON IT ! BR/P
PEMA map is a thing to CHECK where you are-- it is not your primary method of gathering information about an area.  For that, use your EYES/ears/ other senses.  Much more immediate, and you don't have to think about stopping and getting them out of your pack.  Again, you could have looked at the map and totally missed the significance of the creek, because you weren't thinking about it.  And that's the point./EM/PEM/EM
PBRIt sounds like you had a high level of awarenessBR> regarding avalanches; I'd suggest that you extend that to everything elseBR> about your surroundings. If you cross a bridge, that obviously meansBR> there's water around somewhere- where's the creek. BRBRYeah. BRBRJust keep observingBR> and keeping an inventory of these things. Another example of readingBR> terrain to stay out of trouble: Are the slopes above you made of smoothBR> rock layers? Afternoon glide avalanches off these rocks (which can occurBR> during very "low" avalanche danger relative to normal avalanche triggers)BR> have killed several people in Utah. BRBRThey've done that here too: a slide about 15 years ago happened reallyBRearly in the season. All the snow slid right off a layer of lush grass. BRThe snow didn't slide on the snow, it slid on the grass. BRBR"Terrain traps" are also something toBR> avoid like the plague-- I normally think!
of
them!BR> in termsBR> of getting caught in avalanche runout or debris in one, but after yourBR> post, I will think of things like water and falling in holes. BRBRGood. I'm glad this helped someone. BRBRBRBy theBR> way, if you're up above timberline in a talus area, a big hole betweenBR> boulders will mess you up just as much as a hole in a creek-- I have theBR> scar on my shin to prove it.BRBRWe get "tree wells" here. The snow will swirl around a short tree and notBRreally fill in properly. Over winter the snow covers it, but as soon asBRyou ski over that tree, you'll sink like a stone. BRBR> As far as "was this all this serious? am I over reacting?" Hell, yeah.BR> and Hell, no. a meter of rushing water going under ice is seriousBR> business. If you never saw your ski again, where do you think you wouldBR> go? BRBRMy thoughts exactly. If I had gotten under the ice, I wouldn't be hereBRtoday. BRBR!
You were
very lucky, not least because you were lucky enough toBR> inadvertently increase your group size to be appropriate for your skiBR> trip.BRBRThe group size was a bonus, but I'm pretty sure that we wouldn't haveBRtaken that trail if it was just the two of us. Yes, it was great havingBRDale there !BRBR> Should you and your wife ski alone? It depends. On that trail, with thatBR> equipment, and in those conditions, and with that particular route choice,BR> I'd say that "no" is a pretty obvious answer.BRBRHind sight is 20/20... how do we make that decision in the future ?/P
PEMLearn from your mistakes./EMBRBRBRBut you could ski alone ifBR> you made the mental decision to exercise the "bail" option at a moreBR> conservative decision-making point. BRBRAgreed, *IF* one is seeing and accurately accessing the risk. How oftenBRare we missing the risk factors ?  EMHopefully less frequently as we get more experience and learn, but the only way to miss all of the risk factors is to stay home./EMBRBRIt sounds like you basicallyBR> blundered into a bad situation because you thought you were takingBR> everything into account and then found out that you weren't. I know thisBR> because I'm relatively fresh from my own experience with this process.BRBRYep. BRBR> My guarantee: your freak-out level will decrease, and your level ofBR> awareness will increase, and you will become a safer skiier.BRBRAgreed.BRBRAnd you willBR> still love the mountains, trees, sky, snow, etc. BRB!
RDoubly
agreed. BRBRBut you'll probablyBR> either restrict your skiing to more "conservative" terrain (fixed tracksBR> and established trails),BRBRprobably not. BRBRor get better skis and more experience in thatBR> terrain.BRBRI'll use different equipment AND implement some of the things I spoke ofBRin the article.BRBR> by the way-- I strongly suggest (if you're going to go with option B,BR> above), that you take an avalanche class because a) conditions change, andBR> b) visitor center-bound rangers may or may not be good sources ofBR> information about avalanches. BRBRI'm fully avalanche trained.BRBRAlso, another error I saw is that for theBR> area and terrain you were in, a shovel, avalanche beacon, and knowledge ofBR> how to use the latter would have been a good thing. I've bailed on toursBR> just because I forgot my beacon.BRBRI gave the beacon some thought, but about the only place we had theBR!
potential
to get caught was in a BIG runout. Under such conditions, IBRdoubt a beacon would have helped - you'd be dead. /P
PEMThese two replies are in contradiction to each other!  It seems that the only outcome you're considering for getting caught in a slide runout zone is "certain death."  In this case, I guess your "what's the use" attitude would be useful, and would save oh, maybe 2 pounds in your pack (and what's with your wife not being able to carry 8 pounds???).  So imagine this scenario.  Your wife (not you) gets caught in a runout slide, and after the search and rescue people eventually dig her out (which may take a while, because sometimes they are reluctant to put themselves in danger to dig a body out), they find out that she was likely alive for 30-60 minutes before succumbing to hypothermia and anoxia.  How does that beacon and shovel decision sound now?  And ask yourself if you're really "fully avalanche trained."/EMBRBRA shovel on the other hand might be wise for reasons other thanBRavalanches. /P
PEMMaybe using it to knock some sense into yourself? ;- )/EM/P
PBRHaving read your replies, I think you really need to re-examine your assumptions.  The most dangerous assumption that we can make is that we're in control -- especially in areas with high "objective danger"-- a climbing term to note things that you can't do anything about- storms, rockfall, avalanches-- in areas where you willingly go because you want to (plain and simple- no other reason to do it.BR/P
PSorry to be so hard on you-- consider it tough love.  /P
PChris Cline/P
PSLC, UTBRBRBR/P/BLOCKQUOTEphr SIZE=1
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  #6  
Old February 25th 04, 03:15 AM
Gene Goldenfeld
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Default Near fatal ski incident

Chris Cline wrote:

A shovel on the other hand might be wise for reasons other than
avalanches.

Maybe using it to knock some sense into yourself? ;- )

Having read your replies, I think you really need to re-examine your assumptions. The most dangerous assumption that we can make is that we're in control -- especially in areas with high "objective danger"-- a climbing term to note things that you can't do anything about- storms, rockfall, avalanches-- in areas where you willingly go because you want to (plain and simple- no other reason to do it.

Sorry to be so hard on you-- consider it tough love.


Hah! Imagine the welcome this would get on rec.skiing.backcountry,
talking about using skate skis and a light shell on a February
backcountry day excursion in Canada. Well said, Chris. -- GG
  #7  
Old February 25th 04, 04:35 AM
Chris Cline
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Default Near fatal ski incident

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Yeah, but what those rec.bc folks don't know is that skate skis are JUST the tool on thos spring crust days. Just ask Mark Nadell (the Sierra crust cruising maniac)!

thanks for the compliment!
C

Gene Goldenfeld wrote:
Chris Cline wrote:

A shovel on the other hand might be wise for reasons other than
avalanches.

Maybe using it to knock some sense into yourself? ;- )

Having read your replies, I think you really need to re-examine your assumptions. The most dangerous assumption that we can make is that we're in control -- especially in areas with high "objective danger"-- a climbing term to note things that you can't do anything about- storms, rockfall, avalanches-- in areas where you willingly go because you want to (plain and simple- no other reason to do it.

Sorry to be so hard on you-- consider it tough love.


Hah! Imagine the welcome this would get on rec.skiing.backcountry,
talking about using skate skis and a light shell on a February
backcountry day excursion in Canada. Well said, Chris. -- GG





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DIVYeah, but what those rec.bc folks don't know is that skate skis are JUST the tool on thos spring crust days.  Just ask Mark Nadell (the Sierra crust cruising maniac)!/DIV
DIV /DIV
DIVthanks for the compliment!/DIV
DIVCBRBRBIGene Goldenfeld >/I/B wrote:/DIV
BLOCKQUOTE class=replbq style="PADDING-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; BORDER-LEFT: #1010ff 2px solid"Chris Cline wrote:BR> BR> A shovel on the other hand might be wise for reasons other thanBR> avalanches.BR> BR> Maybe using it to knock some sense into yourself? ;- )BR> BR> Having read your replies, I think you really need to re-examine your assumptions. The most dangerous assumption that we can make is that we're in control -- especially in areas with high "objective danger"-- a climbing term to note things that you can't do anything about- storms, rockfall, avalanches-- in areas where you willingly go because you want to (plain and simple- no other reason to do it.BR> BR> Sorry to be so hard on you-- consider it tough love.BRBRHah! Imagine the welcome this would get on rec.skiing.backcountry,BRtalking about using skate skis and a light shell on a FebruaryBRbackcountry day excursion in Canada. Well said, Chris. --
GGBRBRBRBR/BLOCKQUOTEphr SIZE=1
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  #8  
Old February 25th 04, 05:57 AM
Griss
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Default Near fatal ski incident


"Gene Goldenfeld" wrote

Hah! Imagine the welcome this would get on rec.skiing.backcountry,
talking about using skate skis and a light shell on a February
backcountry day excursion in Canada. Well said, Chris. -- GG


Since I did my share of spanking this guy (and learned from his story -
thanks for having the guts for posting it), I feel free to point out that he
never said he was on skating skis. He was on racing skis, but they were
striding skis. He did say he skated from time to time, but who hasn't on
striding skis of all types? Now, the reason that this is important is that
I've done quite a bit of touring with racing-type striding skis, and
personally, they can work fine in skied-in tracks, which is primarily what
they were sking in. Not great for breaking trail, of course. I don't think
this was one of his *major*, unforgivable errors (see my previous post for
personal opinion of that topic). A judgement error, maybe yes, maybe no,
but well down the list, in my opinion. The comment about the light shell
..... now don't get me started again (still shaking my head on that one).
And by the way, I agree on his opinion on good combi boots for light
touring - an excellent choice for touring without a heavy pack.

Here's what he said about his gear:

"Unlike the guy in the other couple, we were skiing on light equipment. I
have a pair of high end NNN combi boots. They are light and have great
ankle support. My skis were actually racing skis, 44mm wide with a lot of
camber. I waxed them with a big grip pocket. I was a pretty decent skier
and I could (and have) handled a wide variety of terrain with them. I've
often thought that those boots were as stiff and good as my old leather
telemark boots, which I no longer owned. My wife was equipped similarly
to me, but with a lesser quality boot and a wider, more all round ski."


  #9  
Old February 25th 04, 01:21 PM
Me
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Default Near fatal ski incident


The skis were NOT skating skis. There were 210 cm Rossignol Silver 44
skis. They aren't an all out racing ski either.

Kim



  #10  
Old February 25th 04, 01:29 PM
Me
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Default Near fatal ski incident

Comments below.


On Tue, 24 Feb 2004 20:08:20 +0000, Gene Goldenfeld wrote:

As I read through your very longwinded tale (what's the point, is it a
draft for a magazine?),


I wrote this up for myself to examine and for people to learn from.

it just struck me over and over how little you
actually thought (and think) through what you were doing. Basically, it's
a tale of someone who sees what's in front of his nose and pushes away the
rest, like the person in a debate that accepts their opponents points,
then marches on merrily ignoring them. Or, better, like the young driver
that sees the next open lane, without more than the merest recognition
that there's a world around them, a bigger picture, and that they share it
with others (your monikor is well chosen!).


Let he is without blemishes cast the first rock... compared to the people
eating lunch at the bridge, we were *infinitely* more prepared and able to
ski those trails. I *emphasized* some of our mistakes, ie light gear,
light dress, etc. Have you never found yourself under dressed or under
equipped on a ski ?

You come across as too busy
telling yourself and everyone else, "it's a sunny day, no problem," to
stop and think through what could happen to you or your wife, and to
prepare properly for all the conditions and possibilities you want to take
on or could encounter. Yes, unexpected things happen. That's normal.
That's also what good preparation is about: creating a basis for a
successful venture by being ready for the reasonably forseeable.
Sometimes even that's not enough, and it's hard to tell for sure without
closer knowledge of your trip, but it does appear that your unexpected
encounter with mortality was the cumulation of numerous decisions that
were dictated, or distorted, more by a lack of preparation than genuinely
unexpectable conditions or bad luck.


Yes and no. Were we prepared to spend a night out ? No. Are we ever ?
No. Were the other people skiing that day ? No.

Did the skis play a role in breaking through the ice ? Probably. Could
the same accident have happened later in the season with fat skis ? YES.
My dress and my choice of skis DIDN'T play a major role in the event THIS
TIME, but we'll be using more caution and be a bit better prepared NEXT
TIME.


A number of books have lists of things to take on a day outing like yours.
The Sierra Club calls their list the "ten essentials," and they have
add-ons for ski trips. But even those can't overcome arrogance (a list of
ten excuses). I don't know where you live, but suggest taking a good
winter backcountry class or class series, or traveling elsewhere to join
an organized educational trip.


I've been backcountry camping...

I also suggest posting your tale on rec.skiing.backcountry to see how they
react. Just because you put on skate skis doesn't alter a trip's basic
nature.


They weren't skating skis.



Gene Goldenfeld


 




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