Snow and Avalanche Center 2007 Avalanche News

Skiing into an avalanche for YouTube fame is really stupid

Colin Cathrea / Vue Weekly

I have settled down quite a bit over the last several years. Thoughts and recollections about the extreme skiing I’ve done sometimes make me shudder. I’ll have to admit up front, I have taken some insane chances over the years. I’ve laughed many off by saying to myself, “a man has to know his limitations!” Calculated risks are, and always will be, part of skiing.

Back when I trained downhill at Lake Louise, there was a significant lack of safety features on the mountain. A few hay bales on the most obvious trees was about as good as it got. On race day, organizers were kind enough to erect a bit of wooden snow fencing for good measure.

Now protective measures are significantly better on all racecourses, but cliffs and trees are still all over the mountains, and people seem to be pushing the limits more often these days. The biggest roars when Warren Miller comes to town are usually from the biggest-baddest-assed crashes and highest leaps. Some of the chutes skiers and snowboarders are hucking are simply out of this world.

But lately I saw some footage that was fairly alarming. It was of an internet site that was showing a series of videos of skiers and boarders who purposely trigger avalanches and then outrun them. They are usually successful, but a few are overtaken and brought down, into, and under the crushing force of the snow.

I have seen various forms of idiotic behaviour—from lying down on the divider line of a highway to various stunts initiated from the famous JackAss movies—but with my knowledge of skiing and avalanche awareness, this disturbed me in a different way.

You see, I know for a fact that many riders still do not understand the pure brute force of even a small slide. Think of it this way: a single shovel-full of well-packed snow carries a lot of weight and impact potential, so even a very small slide packs a very big punch.

But now with instant notoriety from video, coupled with video technology in the palm of your hand, more and more whack-jobs are cutting under the ropes and venturing into backcountry with something more specific in mind. Push the limits and get your 15 minutes of fame. This is absolute stupidity, and to these foolhardy riders I have only one piece of advice ... smarten the f--- up! It is not worth it. It is probably much less dangerous to lie on the Whitemud Freeway at rush hour than try to outrun an avalanche. Period. V

Log in for an Ad-free visit - Contributors can log in for advertising-free pages.
Avalanche Institute


HTML 4.01 Transitional Compliant - Validate