If you’re planning to venture into the backcountry, first and foremost, sign up for an avalanche safety course. Then, always follow basic protocol: travel with a partner, carry life-saving rescue gear (transceiver, shovel and probe) and know how to use it. But that alone is not enough. “Knowing more about avalanches is not a guarantee that you will avoid them,” says CAIC’s Spencer Logan. “You have to adjust your behavior to current circumstances. Education can become almost a double-edged sword, because the people seeking out education are also those who are accepting a higher level of risk.” In the end, life or death in the backcountry comes down to the decision-making process: Should you or should you not ride that terrain, in that snowpack, on that day?
SHE WAS ALWAYS the person who brought everyone else together — the magnet, friends called her — so they traveled from across the world to see Sarah Burke one final time. High school classmates came from the East Coast, and family members flew in from Canada. Professional athletes traveled from Norway, Sweden and Japan. They arrived en masse at a hospital in Park City, Utah, spilling from Burke’s room into the general waiting area and the hallways until, finally, doctors found a conference room big enough to accommodate them.
For nine terrible days in January, they sat there, waited and prayed. They rehashed questions that made no sense.
How could they remain hopeful when the most optimistic among them was lying unresponsive in the other room?
How had skiing’s most daring athlete suffered a brain hemorrhage while practicing an utterly routine trick?
Why now, just months after she had engineered her sport’s inclusion in the 2014 Winter Olympics and had become, at long last, a gold medal favorite?