Thursday, January 07, 2010

fear and loathing in the Rockies

Avalanche Awareness Days are coming up this weekend. This is an annual event that is held in forty mountain communities across Canada. I'm not sure just how effective these awareness days actually are, considering that there were 26 avalanche deaths in Canada last winter.

If you know me, you know my distrust of mountains, so you can probably see where I am going with this.

Yes, I understand that some people do love the mountains and mountain sports, and I agree that people who live in mountain communities should be well versed in avalanche survival. But a high proportion of avalanche victims are not actually people who live in the mountain communities, so maybe these awareness days should be held in the cities from which these thrill-seekers arrive. I am always reminded of the crusty old guy in Barrie who commented once that he knew which people were from Toronto, because "they're the ones with their skies and their brains strapped to the roofs of their cars".

Correct me if I am wrong, but it's never the guy who's walking home from the library in Canmore or driving to his job at the Safeway in Banff who gets buried in an avalanche. It's the skiers, and increasingly the snowmobilers, who chose to leave the groomed paths and venture out into the backcountry who get swept down the mountainside by a rapidly descending wall of snow.

Just don't go there! Not only are you putting yourself in danger, but you are also straining the resources of the rescue teams who have to come out there and dig your stupid ass out of your snowy grave. Your death is 100% preventable and completely unnecessary.

/rant

On a more positive note, Merry Christmas to my Eastern Orthodox friends! It must be tough to celebrate Christmas long after everybody else in the world is so thoroughly sick to death of the whole idea. So props to you for sticking with it. Enjoy your varenyky and zalabee.

10 comments:

Wandering Coyote said...

Well, yeah. I can see prairie folks not understanding the draw. The guy who died near Rossland on Monday in an avalanche was from Alberta, BTW. BUT, they weren't out of any boundaries, they were well-prepared and well-equipped and experienced, and there had been no avalanche warnings issued. While it is risky, so are a lot of activities.

Allison said...

While I grew to appreciate the mountains living in the Bulkley Valley, when people there would ask me if I skied I would reply with "No, I'm too accident prone to ski." Seriously.

However, one of the things I learned living in a mountain village, was that yes, it's not usually the locals getting caught in the avalanches, but often times out of towners. Also, it's not just skiers and snowmobilers, it's hikers/walkers too, as often times it's at the start of spring when the most damage can be done when you think winter is over.

I think having awareness in cities is a great idea.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I agree that many activities are risky, Wandering Coyote, but I don't think that many have the mortality rate that avalanche dangers have. Twenty-six deaths in a single season is really high. I don't think it's worth the risk. But that could just be the prairie girl in me speaking.

Okay, walking and hiking are now on my do not go there list, Al! Mountains are just nasty scary things.

mister anchovy said...

All kinds of back-country activities can be risky, but then again, there's risky and there's risky. When the sign says DANGER AVALANCHE KEEP OUT and you and your ski party boogie on in anyway (didn't that happen last year?), you've really exceeded reasonable risk. Go downhill skiing and you might break your ankle. Most skiers are prepared for that. They don't want it, but I know several people who have broken bones on skis. Go into an avalanche area and it's hard to be sympathetic, isn't it?

BeckEye said...

I'm so glad I don't live anywhere near a place that necessitates creating Avalanche Awareness Days.

Jas B said...

Totally agree Barb. Why take unnecessary risk and tax the system, resources and most of all cause anguish to loved ones...

justrun said...

Ugh, we need Avalanche Awareness here, too. Because Dumbass Prevention doesn't seem to work.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I guess it's easy for me to be judgmental, Mr Anchovy, since playing in the backcountry is not something I would ever be interested in doing, and I realise that colours my view. But I agree there are certain activities that make it hard for one to be sympathetic when things go awry.

You chose your hood wisely, Beckeye.

So true, Jas. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to have a love one die through a preventable fatality.

Dumbass Prevention! Yeah, that program didn't work here either, Justrun.

leazwell said...

I doubt even decades ago when I skied 5 nights a week and weekends would I have ventured in to areas where avalanches were likely. Of course, I skied here in Va, where the snow on mountain sides wasn't going to come crashing down but I saw plenty of people plow into trees. That too can be a fatal encounter. After enjoying skiing for several years I quit at 21. I've never missed it.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You didn't miss it at all, Leazwell? And yet I assume you were never one who plowed into a tree?