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#238354 - 12/31/11 05:19 AM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: Teslinhiker]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
The latest report indicates the skier was a ski patroller at the Whistler Blackcomb resort (IIRC the site of many events at the Winter Olympics). Very experienced, very familiar with local conditions, and well respected in the skiing community.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/12/30/bc-avalache-pemberton.html

From the RCMP press conference: "They were extremely well equipped, they were very experienced, they knew what they were doing . . . unfortunately, it was not enough and once Mother Nature kicked in, there was nothing that they could do."

The initial rescue helicopter had to turn back due to darkness, and a second SAR flight was turned back due to weather conditions. Some comments on the story wonder if a SPOT/PLB might have brought rescue before nightfall, increasing the chances of survival considerably. It took an hour for the other two skiers to get out of the area and raise the alarm.

I think AKSAR's comment that "people who are highly trained and experienced sometimes tend to cut their margins thinner and thinner" has a great deal of wisdom in it. All of us who travel in backcountry accept a certain level of risk. But we may be inclined to take greater risks in areas we are familiar with.

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#238365 - 12/31/11 03:40 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: dougwalkabout]
Teslinhiker Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1382
Another avalanche related death yesterday.

Another skier has died in an avalanche in British Columbia, this time near Revelstoke, RCMP have confirmed.

The unidentified male who died was in a group of 11 people who were on a heli-skiing excursion, Cpl. Dan Moskaluk reported on Twitter.

The skier was one of four people who were buried when the avalanche struck Friday afternoon, about 35 kilometres southwest of Revelstoke, Moskaluk said.


As for the more greater risk taking vs familiarity of the area that one may be more familiar with, I don't fully agree. Over the years, I have found that I take less risk as I know the areas I go to on a regular basis can be brutally unforgiving if you push the risk envelope. My SO who has more years then me, of in the field experience in some the harshest environments around the world agrees. We aggregate our collective knowledge when planning then benchmark the risk and then decide if that risk level is too high then knock it down a notch or two...

Perfect example is today. In about a 1/2 hour, we are going out in the back country for a day trip. Sure it would be nice to take the snowshoes and get up into the higher country on a nice clear day to see the views, but with the current high avalanche ratings, it is not worth the risk no matter how much experience we have...
_________________________
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

John Lubbock

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#238366 - 12/31/11 04:28 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: Teslinhiker]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6612
Loc: southern Cal
To quote a famous movie line - "You have chosen wisely.."
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Geezer in Chief

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#238375 - 12/31/11 07:44 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: Teslinhiker]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1115
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: Teslinhiker
As for the more greater risk taking vs familiarity of the area that one may be more familiar with, I don't fully agree. Over the years, I have found that I take less risk as I know the areas I go to on a regular basis can be brutally unforgiving if you push the risk envelope.

Note that I said ".........people who are highly trained and experienced sometimes tend to cut their margins thinner and thinner." Some people get overconfident of their ability to manage risk, and some people get more careful as they learn how great the risks are.

Like you, I have gotten much more conservative over the years. In my case it was a combination of things. Regarding avalanches, as I've learned more I've realized how tricky and unpredictable they can be. As both of these cases in Canada demonstrate, even people with a lot more expertise than me sometimes make mistakes, and people die. If both a Whistler ski patroller and a CMH heli ski guide can get it wrong....then I obviously need to be even more conservative.

Also, I have participated in several avalanche body recovery missions over the years. I've seen first hand the effects on the family and friends of the deceased. I don't want to put my loved ones through that.
_________________________
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#238383 - 12/31/11 11:10 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: AKSAR]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6612
Loc: southern Cal
In the same line, I am now basically a teetotaler, a bit of a shift from my younger days. I gave up alcohol after numerous body recoveries of individuals with substantial and levels of alcohol upon autopsy. It gets to you after awhile.
_________________________
Geezer in Chief

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#238384 - 12/31/11 11:37 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: Teslinhiker]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I'm glad to hear about people who, like me, are very conservative regarding backcountry risks. As for avalanche terrain, well, it gives me the willies. Too many variables.

But downhill skiers are drawn to fresh powder. Do they have a different risk vs. reward calculation?

And I wonder: if those skiers were from a different area, without intimate local knowledge, would they have given the avalanche warnings more weight?

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#238398 - 01/01/12 04:24 AM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: dougwalkabout]
Teslinhiker Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1382
The first person who got died, he and his group were from the local area of Whistler and as you pointed out in another post, they were very experienced and well respected skiers amongst their peers.

The second person was not from the area and was apparently using the services of a certified guide. Heli-skiing here is highly regulated and it is very probable that there will be some very direct investigations centered on the company that employs the guide.

Just to touch on the first incident and the various comments about the accuracy of the news media. There seems to be a big discrepancy as to how far the skier was carried by the avalanche to his death. CBC and other media reported he was swept down 1800 meters which is just over a mile. The issue with this is that highest peak in the map that I posted yesterday is only 2400 meters (7780 feet.) The 2 lane highway that is immediately to the north of the peaks is just over 1200 meters above sea level (I have the exact GPS elevation reading in one of my notebooks somewhere.) So if you do the math, that skier could not of been swept down 1800 meters and I more inclined to believe that the skier was swept down 300 meters as reported earlier by some.
_________________________
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

John Lubbock

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#238408 - 01/01/12 10:19 AM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: Teslinhiker]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2719
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I should make it clear that I'm not an expert in this field by any measure, so I'm hardly qualified to comment let alone to criticize.

(I generally travel solo. My solution to avalanche hazards is to go places where there aren't any. Yep, absolutely chicken, but then again a live chicken.)

I'm just trying to understand more broadly the psychology, the thinking process, the assessment of risk vs. reward.

I know skiers and snowmobilers who have had extremely close calls, up to and including shovels and CPR. But their accounts suggest that this is a badge of honour, a rite of passage, a story to be retold over and over. Yet if this were to happen to me, I would consider it a serious and sobering miscalculation -- an embarrassing failure.

I would appreciate the perspectives of people who understand these communities and their cultures better than I.

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#238410 - 01/01/12 12:55 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: dougwalkabout]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6612
Loc: southern Cal
I have seen something similar with scuba divers. I actually encountered a diver who was bragging about his trip to a decompression chamber after getting the bends as the result of an improperly executed dive. This was in the era before decomp meters - one had to set limits based only on dive tables.

For myself, I had already decided that if I ever did that, I would stop diving. Different strokes for different folks.
_________________________
Geezer in Chief

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#238494 - 01/02/12 10:06 PM Re: Skier dies after avalanche in Pemberton, B.C. [Re: hikermor]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
Basic human psychology: You accept a certain risk level to get a reward. Familiarization with the danger (you've been skiing many times and nothing happens) means you feel the danger as less threathening - it becomes an abstract or immaginary thing, you think about it but there are no feelings of danger. On the other hand, skiing in powder feels really awesome. Do the math...

The only known remedy is education and training, but that gives no warranty, just better decision making tools.

Despite best efforts and really skilled personell there is - and always will be - a certain random factor in avalanches.

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