You MUST read SNOW FALL: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. It is an amazing work of print – no, strike that, multimedia journalism that gives the most detailed (not to mention gripping and emotional) account ever of the Feb. 19, 2012 avalanche in the Stevens Pass, WA backcountry. That avalanche took the lives of three beloved locals: Freeskiing World Tour’s Jim Jack, Stevens Pass marketing director Chris Rudolph, and Johnny Brenan, a Leavenworth contractor. The story reveals the beauty and allure of skiing our backcountry at Stevens Pass and other parts of Washington’s Cascade Mountains (and the risks associated with any backcountry terrain). The author, John Branch, worked on this for over six months. It involved interviews with every survivor, the families of the deceased, first responders at Tunnel Creek, officials at Stevens Pass and snow-science experts. It also included the examination of reports by the police, the medical examiner and the Stevens Pass Ski Patrol, as well as 40 calls to 911 made in the aftermath of the avalanche. The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research provided a computer-generated simulation of the avalanche, based on data accumulated from the Stevens Pass accident report and witness accounts. His hard work pays off in this exceptionally moving and insightful report – it deserves a read by everyone who loves to ski and ride the big mountains.
This story comes at a time when the Washington Cascades are attracting national attention for leading the nation in snow fall and snow pack: over 80″ fell in a week at Mt. Baker and they have 178″ at Pan Dome now and 97″ fell in the last week at Crystal Mountain. It you ski/ride in the backcountry, there’s no better time than now to make sure you’re prepared and have the proper education, skills and experience. If you haven’t already or need a refresher, check out the classes and guided trips at Pro Guiding Service in N. Bend (click on their logo to the right). Have a safe and happy holiday and live to ski another day!