“A group of 16 skiers and snowboarders, all of them experts, all of them unable to refuse the temptation of an hourlong excursion into steep powder, had been reduced by three lives.”
This sentence is from the article “Snowfall” by the New York times, written by John Branch.
Some people won’t be able to fathom the idea of going out into a crazy, dangerous situation just for some turns in that fresh, white powder. The article about the avalanche at Tunnel creek really resonated with me because I understand that love for powder. The crazy thing is that it could happen to me. Although I have not been backcountry snowboarding before, it is my dream to do so. I understand that in order to go out and ski in the backcountry, certain skills and equipment are necessary. The people in this article were experienced and prepared, but in the end it was bad luck that got them. It is so easy to see these things happen to people and think “well, I’m me. That can’t possibly happen”. However, it can happen to anyone.
The article did an excellent job of capturing all the little details that are often ignored in news articles. Although it took a lot of patience to read the whole thing, I really like how it got personal with each character, for example, Jim Jack’s high school car. It made me as the reader care about each character, rather than reading a headline that states “3 people die in avalanche”. I like how the story composed of what went on that entire day through the lens of each character. It kept me at a cliffhanger as to when the avalanche would be set off. From the moment the article went into detail about how Johnny met his wife, and how he said goodbye to his family when leaving to tunnel creek, I had a feeling he would be one of the victims of the avalanche. Especially when he said he would be back at 2 and to “be there, because I’ll be there”. going back and reading it after I found out he died gave me chills. You can go into something with no idea that it could be the last thing you ever do.
Fate is another interesting topic that I pondered on while reading this article. One section that I found particularly interesting was,
“They wondered if their mere presence at Stevens Pass that weekend gave rise to the Tunnel Creek trip, a group of proud locals eager to show off for influential out-of-towners. They wondered why they recognized all of the danger signs, starting with the avalanche report that morning over coffee, but did not do enough to slow or stop the expedition. They wondered if they could have saved lives after the avalanche by speeding to the bottom rather than combing the path.”
After something crazy happens, you start to wonder if one small thing had changed, how the situation could have been entirely different. From a personal example, I was once injured in an unlucky snowboarding accident. I started to think thoughts such as “what if I had not taken that particular run? What if I had left earlier? What if I had gone to a different resort?”
This article inspired to notice all the little details in life. It inspired me to write not only about the main event, but all the little back stories that make it unique. It also reminded me that crazy things happen, and you can be prepared but still have bad luck get the best of you. It is part of the risk of doing such a dangerous sport such as snowboarding. This story did not ruin my dreams of going to the backcountry to snowboard, but it gave me more respect for the dangers of mother nature, and uncontrollable forces.