The temperatures are low, the air is dry and crisp. Several feet of fresh snow creates an excitement in the mountains. Conversations focus on ski gear, favorite runs, best ski areas, backcountry stashes of snow, and epic powder days. People forget, however, that fresh snow also brings hazards. Heads Up! While ski areas do their best to control the hazards within the ski area boundary, snow slides within the boundaries are still reported annually. Areas outside ski area boundaries are left uncontrolled and slide when the snowpack reaches a state of instability. The skier is entirely on his/her own.
If you have lived in mountain areas, most likely you have taken an avalanche course, know something about the science of snow, use beacons, ski with a buddy, and avoid open slopes. For those of you who have not, there are several resources available. The Sierra Avalanche Center posts backcountry snow conditions routinely. The National Ski Areas Association has put together a great website that includes sections on avalanche awareness, deep snow and tree well safety, and helmet use.
Tahoe mourns the loss of one of its own ski patrollers. He was experienced, knew snow and how it behaves, was passionate about his profession, and a truly compassionate human being. Please, in honor of a man who spent his life trying to save lives, take it upon yourself to be aware of your surroundings, know your terrain, understand snow, and ski responsibly. The life you save could be your own.