— Andreas Fransson, an interview with Rian Rhoe for ESPN.com
— Andreas Fransson, an interview with Rian Rhoe for ESPN.com
I just returned from a couple of days at Kirkwood ski area, near South Lake Tahoe. I was there covering the Freeride World Tour for ESPN.com (that’s me, above, speaking with women’s winner Jackie Paaso). I first wrote about the Freeride World Tour as a feature for Skiing Magazine, around 2008 when the European tour first launched. Since then, the tour has evolved and merged with the Freeskiing World Tour. It’s still an incredible display of raw talent in the mountains. If you have time, please check out my story about Peter Hawks, the father of Ryan Hawks, who was killed at the FWT at Kirkwood in 2011. Peter is doing incredible things with the foundation he set up in his son’s honor, the Flyin’ Ryan Foundation.
So many magazines and websites geared toward women are filled with fluff: beauty and sex tips, how to tone your abs in the gym, and the perfect $200 sequin tank top. There really aren’t many (or any?) publications for women who like to spend time outside, travel, and care about the world at large and want real, honest stories aimed at intelligent women. Introducing WomensMovement.com, a new site started by my friend Erinn Morgan that finally offers women smart stories related to travel, adventure, health, fitness, gear and more.
My first story for the site is an interview with my friend Elyse Saugstad (pictured above, photo by the talented Heather Erson). Elyse was the only survivor of the Tunnel Creek avalanche that killed three of our friends last February. It’s been nearly a year since that day and not a day has passed that I don’t think about what happened and the three men we lost. I still have so much sadness, regret, and grief. But there is one good thing that came from that day: We got to keep Elyse, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.
Today, the New York Times published a story called “Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” which gives a 16,000 word, gripping account of the avalanche on the backside of Stevens Pass last winter that claimed the lives of three incredible men. It is one of the longest stories the New York Times has ever run and the interactive media components of the project are sure to set the stage for what’s possible in the future of digital media.
I was there that horrific day and wrote about it for Outside Magazine in October in a story called “Tunnel Vision.” When New York Times writer John Branch first contacted me about his piece, I was skeptical. How was he going to paint the picture of what happened that day? What kind of judgment would he pass on our decision making? And, when 34 people were killed in avalanches last winter, why has there been so much media attention on this one in particular? (See Gawker for more on that.) In the end, John Branch did a truly exceptional job — he offered the most detailed, well-reported account of that day I’ve ever heard, he explained the lure of backcountry skiing to a mainstream audience, and most importantly, he honored Chris, Jim, and Johnny.
My love goes out to their families and everyone involved that day. I’m sorry we have to re-live it again, but if stories like “Snowfall” help even one person avoid the same situation we found ourselves in, then I am thankful.
Robb Gaffney—the Squaw Valley-based former extreme skier and current PhD who literally wrote the book on the gnarliest lines at Squaw—recently launched a new website called Sportgevity.com, which seeks to shift the outdoor and action sports industry to prioritize longevity and sustainability in sports. The sites uses academic research, interviews with long-lasting athletes, and other experts to help offer smart, safe ways to stay in your sport for as long as possible.
I believe in what Robb is doing, which is why I’ve started writing for his site as well. You can check out my interview with Jasper Shealy, an expert on ski-related injuries, and my interview with mountain guide Martin Volken about smart decision making in the backcountry. Stay tuned to Sportgevity.com for more stories, too!
I’m fascinated by the idea of what goes on in an athlete’s brain before and during their sport. Especially amongst skiers, a breed of people who seem willing to take massive risks for the chance to enjoy a few undisturbed powder turns. Which is why I was particularly interested and in awe of the new trailer recently released by Sherpas Cinemas for their new film, “Into the Mind,” which will debut in the fall of 2013. The film will examine skiers’ psychological process of risk taking and decision making in the mountains. The trailer is beautifully produced. Read more about the film in this story by Molly Baker on ESPN Freeskiing.
I just finished up a two-day avalanche refresher course here in Tahoe, taught by the honorable Lel Tone, Alaskan heli guide, Squaw Valley ski patroller, and avalanche educator and forecaster. My peers in the class were a collection of some of Tahoe’s most talented female skiers, including Ingrid Backstrom, Michelle Parker, Elyse Saugstad, Amie Engerbretson, Jackie Passo, and Sherry McConkey — a good reminder that even pro skiers are getting refresher courses in avy education. We did some classroom work (looking at case studies, analyzing terrain and route selection, discussing human factors and decision making, and more) and then did some rescue scenarios and practiced searching with our beacons out in the snow. Find an avalanche course near you at www.avalanche.org. Here are some photos from the course.
Elyse Saugstad with her four backcountry essentials: beacon, shovel, probe, ABS backpack.
From left, Lel Tone watches as Ingrid Backstrom and Jackie Paaso rehearse a rescue scenario.
Amie Engerbretson, Michelle Parker, and Sherry McConkey practice pulling a BCA airbag pack.
Trick or treat? Or powder skiing? Winter has arrived early in Tahoe and I got to make my first turns of the season even before Halloween, thanks to a three-foot storm that arrived this week. Needless to say, I am happy to be living back in the mountains.
Photo of Chris Rudolph, by Ian Coble
When an avalanche on the backside of Washington’s Stevens Pass ski area killed three of my friends and ski partners last February, I was shocked wordless. I couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt, a hybrid of sorrow, paranoia, guilt, sadness and utter terror. The men who died that day were good, honest people and I couldn’t fathom that something this horrific could happen to them. And nearly to me and my husband, Dan, as well. I spent many months trying to come to terms with the reality, struggling to figure out how this could have happened to a group of expert skiers, all of us trained in avalanche education and smart enough to identify the risks. I honestly never planned to write about that day; I wasn’t sure the words would ever come to me. But eventually, the words began to form, and as I’ve learned, sometimes it’s the hardest stories to write that are the ones we most need to tell.
I’ve written a feature story called “Tunnel Vision” in the Nov. 2012 issue of Outside Magazine, which is on stands now.
And you can can read my story, “The Lives They Lived,” on ESPN.com, which is part of a new, six-part series on avalanche education.