The killing hype

Photo by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

I’m not going to say I told you so. I’m not going to say much of anything, other than that anyone who does serious backcountry travel, no matter the season, should read this incident report and the commentary and discussion here.  Avalanches may or may not be the most problematic backcountry “objective” hazard, but this latest incident highlights rather starkly the simple fact that danger does not exist without humans.  We create it by being there, and how and when we are where we are in the backcountry makes all the difference.

This lead to two posts: the one I already wrote about the flawed way avalanche safety has been conceptualized in the last decade, and one I’ll write next week about how solo is almost always safer.

6 responses to “The killing hype”

  1. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut b/c I have zero in-person avalanche knowledge. But I read the report and the post and over half the comments and the most notable thing to me was the very first comment from the guy who admitted he can’t withstand peer pressure so he skies alone. The second most interesting thing is how no one continues that discussion and all the other comments are about data. Sure, there are some rote mentions of “this one time I did a stupid thing and was lucky,” but apart from that one guy, not a whiff of introspection to be found.

    1. And this after the OP verbatim asks readers to look in the mirror. “How would you interpret this data?” is not the same question as “What decision would you have made?”.

  2. Yep. I think it’s valuable for folks outside the bc skiing “community” to read and comment on things like this. What better way to highlight the dangerous things the culture encourages taking for granted?

  3. Well I think “solo is safer” is dependent the situation and what the risk is. For example on a backpacking trip my partners don’t really encourage me to take risks since walking through the woods is not a particularly risky activity. On the other hand in the unlikely event of an accident (fall, bear attack, whatever) a partner could ensure quicker emergency care.
    However I think things change for riskier sports like climbing, mountaineering, biking or paddling. These sports involve more judgement calls about what is safe and what is not. A solo traveler might err on the side of caution where a group we take risks. However just being in a group does not necessarily make kayaking or mountain biking safer. A group just ensures that you’ll get to the hospital faster (if you’re alive). The only times I can think of when partners would help prevent an incident would be with bears and roped glacier/mountaineering travel.

  4. […] making and put people in places they wouldn’t otherwise go.  For full discussion see this.  In my mind the jury is very much out of whether partners make most skiers safer most of the […]

  5. The human dynamics and heuristic studies in avalanches were powerful wake up calls for me. You know me well enough to know that I am relatively conservative in the backcountry and more than willing to back down from a preconceived goal already, but the analyses taught me how important nurturing that skill can be for survival in the backcountry. Getting home to me is more important than any backcountry objective. Combining the two is an art form developed over a lifetime.

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