Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Snowslide deaths and safety
They should have taken an avalanche course
The recent deaths caused by avalanche are tragic to be certain, but they were entirely foreseeable [“Fatal day on slopes: Avalanches kill 4,” page one, Feb. 20].
Most of the avalanche victims are male, and most have considerable backcountry experience. What most haven’t done is taken an avalanche course and religiously applied the principles and techniques taught therein.
I know firsthand of groups of backcountry skiers from the White Pass area who carry beacons, shovels and probes, but don’t regularly train with them.
The first thing they teach in an avalanche course is decision making and in almost every avalanche fatality, they review poor decisions.
Every backcountry skier should invest in an air bag device in addition to the gear mentioned. They should also take an avalanche course and practice religiously with their transceiver.
In the final analysis there is no substitute for sound judgment.
— John Gaines, Snoqualmie
Experienced skiers should have known better
The Seattle Times needs not to be too kind in writing about the people killed in this week’s snowslides, especially the Stevens Pass incident.
Those people have been represented in the media as experienced mountain-snow travelers.
My experience for more than the last 50 years in the mountains as well as the teachings of mountaineers courses would flag that Stevens Pass slope as a death trap without even looking at it. A new snowfall on a crusted previous layer is poison.
Travelers there must have suffered from the too common indestructible affliction, because no one I know would have gone near that slope after the last few weeks of specific snowfall scenario.
— Don Bell, Seattle
Sometimes bad things happen to good people
Katherine Long’s article, “‘Sidecountry’ skiing holds more risk,” [News, Feb. 21], points out some enlightening information for readers. It’s true that sidecountry, out of bounds or backcountry skiing and snowboarding is more dangerous because of the increased risk of avalanches.
It’s right to inform readers that a skier or snowboarder should be fully prepared and educated on safety and the risks of traveling out of the boundaries of the marked, groomed trails.
What I felt that Long failed to explore, though, was whether or not the three poor individuals who were killed in avalanches at Stevens Pass were adequately prepared for their expedition into unmarked territory. Had they taken classes? Were they partnered up? Did they have shovels and avalanche beacons?
Perhaps it would also do the readers good to know what Stevens Pass’ policies are regarding backcountry skiing.
After all, if the three avalanche victims had been educated and fully prepared, then perhaps placing blame on them for their death isn’t the best idea.
Sometimes, bad things happen to good people, even when they’re prepared for the worst and know what to look for on the slopes.
— Teresa Butler, Seattle