Wednesday, March 11, 2009
AVALANCHE WARNING FROM THE GNFAC
SADDLE PEAK ANTICS
Horsing around in the backcountry has risen to a new level on Saddle Peak in the Bridgers. I’m a bit dismayed at the entire lack of respect folks are showing the backcountry. And yes, contrary to popular belief, Saddle Peak is in the backcountry. Just because you can see it from the chair lift doesn’t mean it’s part of the ski area. Folks are breaking some cardinal rules: skiing the slope together; skiing above one another; not heeding obvious signs of instability like recent avalanches and turning off their beacons once they get off the chair to conserve battery power (I couldn’t make this stuff up). I feel like a parent with one hand on my hip the other wagging a finger saying “Just because all your friends ski Saddle at the same time doesn’t mean you should too”. So there you have it. And if you’re so broke that you have to save money on your beacon batteries, well, maybe you should skip lunch instead.
Mark saw a solo skier shred a line next to a recent avalanche. He snapped a photo you can see at: http://www.mtavalanche.com/photos/photos.php
And here is some of my own personal experience up there:
Two very young girls, probably 14 and 16, hiking along the ridge, got to the boundary gate. One stopped and said to the other, "I don't think we should go out there, I mean, we don't have any avalanche stuff." (I'm not sure how they got on the chair, they were wearing backpacks with one visible shovel).
The other girl responded, "Oh, its okay, we are going to just go out where the other people are, don't worry about it, we won't go where no one else has been. Come on."
And she took off up the ridge. And her friend followed. Later on, Ang and I looked South and saw them coming down some North facing shots, that had not been skied by anyone else (not that it matters) both in huge scary back-seat power wedges. These were not strong skiers by any means, and certainly not knowledgeable enough about what the real dangers are.
I'm concerned, because the ?? "informed" decisions that "adults" are making in going out of bounds the day it dumps on an unstable snow-pack are showing the KIDS that, hey, its okay! Its just snow! Lets play!!
The other horrifying thing that one of our supervisors at Bridger saw was a parent in the rental shop showing his young son how to put on the rental transceiver. He wrapped one strap around the boys leg, like a leg strap on a pistol, and put the other part around his neck. Incredible. Their friend said, "I'm just gonna put mine in my pocket."
Someone is going to die. I'm shocked it hasn't happened yet.
Anyhow, just wanted to share some quick snippets of the insanity I'm experiencing over there, of course minus the stories you guys know so well of people skiing two and three at a time, hanging out in the middle of the bowl, not clearing run-out zones or hazard areas and basically being cavalier idiots.
Please be smart! There are classes you can take to learn how to minimize the VERY REAL danger of skiing in the back country!!
Find them HERE.