Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eastern Sierra Avy Center Kick-Off

From Karhu friend Nate Greenberg at the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, just after the New Year:

It’s been a few weeks since the Season Kickoff event for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, and I finally feel like I have caught my breath. The event itself was a great success, raising over $4,000 for the Center and getting folks psyched for another winter of great skiing in the Sierra.

Putting this event on every year takes a tremendous amount of work, and is a constant learning process for us. It is an extremely rewarding process, though, serving as a reminder about why we do what we do. Giving back to our community of supporters – friends & family of years past, and those new ones that just keep getting added – is really what it’s all about for me, and is where I draw most of my energy from. Support from the Industry at large is amazing as well, and without this, our job would be impossible. Many thanks, again, to Charlie & Graham and the entire
Karhu staff for their continued support of the Center… we owe you guys. Mammoth Mountain Ski Patroller John Trusdale is now a proud owner of a brand new pair of Storm BCs – courtesy of you guys. He needed them. Badly.

(John Trusdale with his new rides.)

Like the past two Season Kickoffs have done, this one brought the second major storm of the season that really got things going for us. As with most everywhere in the west, this season has been a bit weird. Most people haven’t been skiing for more than three weeks, yet somehow we have managed to rack up 15 avalanche fatalities already in North America. [Since Nate's email, that number has sadly jumped to 23 fatalities in North America.] Call it what you will – early season anxiousness, funky snow-packs due to slow season start, whatever – but we’re in the double digits and just reached 2009. People continue to make decision making errors and put themselves in situations in the backcountry which threaten their life.

What really scares me though, is the wrath of in-bounds accidents that have occurred so far this year. Outside of the deaths and major incidents that have taken place at a number of west-coast resorts in the past couple weeks, Mammoth (and others) has had several moderate size post-control avalanches hospitalize patrollers and friends for broken ribs and internal injuries. Having family and friends on patrol here and at other resorts, I know how much work they put into control measures and trying to make the area safe for skier & riders. I also know that there is only so much they can do, and given the market pressures to get things open quickly, there is always going to be a certain element of uncertainty out there.

I’ve been skiing with a beacon in-bounds on storm/post-storm days for several years now, and just this year started carrying a small pack with a shovel and probe. As skiers & riders, I believe it’s vitally important to know what’s going on with conditions and take responsibility for our decisions and actions whether in-bounds or out. Practicing smart and safe travel and skiing techniques is all a part of having fun and being safe responsible. The resort should be a good place to keep those skills sharp – not a place to just turn your brain off and go. Obviously, neither is the backcountry.

Happy New Year to all of our extended friends in this amazing community. Let’s all work together to make 2009 winter as safe, fun and amazing as possible, while we rip it up on some new Karhu skis!

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