Two stories. Two days.

Story 1

Last week my buddy Clint gives me a call at 8am in the morning. Now I’m an early riser so for me this is when my brain is firing on all cylinders, so no big deal. Clint however is in the pacific time zone, and I’m in central which makes it 6am his time…which makes the call a bit unusual. Apparently he had just come in from doing control work (that’s patrol geek speak for setting off those avalanche explosives) at Schweitzer. Anyway he was milling around at the patrol shack recanting with his fellow superhero’s about the previous days adventures and a story came up how a patroller had skied past an incident not once, but twice. Not this is not terribly unusual at Schweitzer. That mountain has abundant tree skiing and some pretty remote pockets for adventure, and don’t even get me started on the fog, legendary! Now can you imagine how long it can take for a patroller responding to incident to ski down, take the lift, ski down, take the lift, ski down…”oh there he is!”. Woof!

Story 2

Next day my wife conveys a story she heard from our friend Kathleen about how Chris (her husband) was skiing down…some run…, and “POP” goes his ankle. Said he actually heard it, and you know it’s bad when you can actually hear your bones talk. Chris is a super “free the heel” proud telemark skier that can make continuous turns look effortless. I made the call to check in a few days later. Apparently the conditions were decent but he said he definitely hit, what he called “cruft”, just under the surface. Must’ve thrown his balance off just enough to put him in an “unrecoverable spin”, sorry Goose.

Of course the next segment of the conversation pertained to the response time from patrol “did you go down in the toboggan….how was the care…how long did it take for patrol to reach you?”. Yes. Excellent. Less that 3 minutes! Yowza! Now that’s impressive! How did he get patrol assistance so quickly? It hit me that he the patrol direct phone number on speed dial. Oh, did I forget to mention, Chris is a well-seasoned volunteer Mountain Ambassador for Schweitzer…. yep that’s why he has there direct line. Obviously this is extremely rare. I’ve personally spoken with hundreds of folks and no one has patrols direct number. Sometimes patrol doesn’t even have a direct number.

Well the verdict is still out as to whether Chris needs surgery or not, but his ski days are definitely done for the season; sorry Chris. Big thanks to the patrollers that brought my pal down, you guys rock!

I obviously don’t need to draw you a line here but this is exactly what SnoSuite is going to do, give everyone a direct line to patrol…no phone number required.

Sorry for your loss

If you’ve been following current events you may have seen that Taos Ski Valley had an inbounds avalanche on Thursday which took the lives of two skiers. The skiers were on the K3 chute near the top of Kachina Peak; the mountains highest point at 12,481 ft., when the avalanche occurred. This was the first in-bounds avalanche in Taos 64 year history.

As you follow the story you will find countless references to team work, heroism, and organization as more than two hundred volunteers worked with ski patrol to form a probe line to locate and extricate the trapped skiers as quickly as possible….I Love you! One witness said it couldn’t have been more than 5 minutes before efforts were underway to locate the fallen and the first was extricated in <15 minutes. Yes, this is a long time to be trapped, no doubt about it, but that fluffy powder at the top turns into concrete in an avalanche, and the patient was 6 feet down. My heart goes out to the families of those lost, but my joy rises up when I read the stories about the teamwork involved….cheers to you all, my alpine family.

After reading through an article from the SantaFeNewMexican I was browsing the comments section and came across a post from a guy named Ben Shroeter that read “I hate to say this but this is 100% the fault of Taos Ski Valley.” My first thought was what an ass! Hey Ben, how could you have possibly come to such a deduction so quickly? The investigation just got started! And furthermore this is not a time for judgement, it’s a time for grievance. Ok I’ll say it aloud…What an ass!  Now theoretically it could be the fault of Taos, I guess. Maybe the patrol team leader came in that morning with a major hangover from the previous nights binger, took one look at the hill and said “looks good to me, open ‘er up.” Sure, it’s possible, but, in my best english accent, “not bloody likely”.

This tool continues his rampage with “The Taos Ski Patrol obviously was not adequately trained” and “The staff should have known better”. Look folks, this is a wilderness sport and must be treated as such. If you play in the outdoors you have to accept the reality that occasionally the unexpected can, and will, occur. I personally have multiple friends that are ski patrollers and they take the job very serious! Training is a continuous effort and these guys put in tons of hours to bring us the safest conditions possible… they make in-bounds skiing possible! But that said they are not in charge, mother is…mother nature.

Now go out there and make you next run a tribute to those that have died doing what they love…and wear your helmet!