The season is now over for most and naturally I'm left with some impressions. Probably the highlight of my season was a trip I had out to Austria, Mayrhofen. The week i got to spend there was absolutely amazing, it was pouring down almost everyday and the powder was insane. There was also a very high risk of avalanche with unstable snow, and constantly over the speakers there were several warnings about this.
During the week I was there I read on the internet that two guys had lost their lives right in the area I was skiing. I didn't ski much powder, but some. From the gondola we could see alot of the danger areas and it looked really strange, like some sort of heavenly hell. Beautiful mountainsides absolutely covered in fresh pow, but in the back of my mind I knew conditions were unstable and going out was not recommended by ski patrols. I also talked to some locals who didn't ski pow at this time and just kept to the designated runs.
I tried skiing some outside of the slopes and mainly through tight areas of forest, cause I thought that would be the safest. It was me and four others. We did some runs and everything felt safe and the mood was good. Then suddenly in the middle of one of the runs a friend of mine hits a pack of soft snow, we hear a large crack and it sends a huge chunk of snow tumbling down. It must have been 50ft each way and everything beneath it started sliding. Luckily no one was standing beneath where the snowpack cracked and started tumbling. Seeing how this was in a place packed with trees, I can only imagine how this would look like in an open area. All of us kinda stood back for a second and were quite amazed that this just happened out of the blue. Kinda shocked and with alot of questions. What had happened if someone got caught in that, would they just ride it all the way down, or be buried? I sure got alot more respect for what was out there after that day.
In the gondola on the way up on one of our last runs of the day, where it had been pouring down the most, I caught something that kinda shocked me. A group of three small kids heading out to one of the open areas. The gondola was too far up for us to start yelling at them. It just makes me wonder, like where were the parents? Who would let their kids out alone on a day like that and beyond the safe ropes put up by ski patrol? It really got me thinking, just stepping back and really see how small we are in natures powerful grip. The kids were okay, but it could have gone either way. In the exact same area those kids were headed out, those two guys had lost their lives just the past day. We had a search and rescue helicopter hoovering over us three of the 7 days we spent there.
Before the trip I didn't have any sort of avalanche training, I knew nothing about how to read the snow and how to make safe plans. My security was in my gps probe basically, which I had been smart enough to buy and equip. I can tell for a fact those kids had nothing like that, they were probably around 10 years old all of them. The trip was a real eyeopener for me, before the next season I'm going to take an avalanche course and see how i can learn more about the dangers of the mountain. For you park rats out there who leave the park when pow falls and might lack the right equipment and knowledge. Please take time to study and learn all these things carefully. Knowledge can be life saving in situations like these. Not only guys who only ski park, but especially those who have little to no experience in general. Like, I see alot of tourists and beginners, even parents skiing with kids, making the worst decisions. And the ones who generally loose their lifes are the ones who havent taken the right safety precautions. I know things can happen even if you know it all, and are an experienced skier, but atleast you have an advantage if you know how to really do things correctly when the nightmare comes to life and the accident becomes reality.
I just wanna say thanks for the season guys and hope it was a good one. If you are an experienced pow rider or want to go out there for the first time, or even have been out there but didnt feel like you knew enough. Sit down, look at it all and gain some knowledge. Try being as safe as you possibly can, nature is nature, but you can always try to do your part. Just my few cents. Happy summer everyone! (Excuse my English it's not the best, but I try!) :D