Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Alli's CBR-III Review #3 - In the Path of an Avalanche

My boyfriend highly recommended this book to me, and I was not disappointed. He has a lifelong background in skiing, while I am just starting to learn. I think that I have more than my fair share of anxiety about the sport without reading about avalanches, but after reading this book I feel more aware and secure about risk versus reward on the whole matter. Vivian Bowers wrote “In the Path of an Avalanche” based on a true tale of tragedy that happened in my province of British Columbia.

In January 1998 six adventurous skiers headed out by helicopter to a remote cabin to enjoy a week of fun in the cold. They considered themselves fortunate as the only way to book that particular cabin was through a lottery system. Unluckily for them, the weather conditions were poor and avalanches were likely. For reasons unknown, the normally fairly cautious group set out and did not return.

The book is extremely thorough, at parts a bit dry due to the amount of scientific type data. I was very interested to learn how avalanches are created, and even the little details about how helicopters work and the logistics of heliskiing. I became quite invested in the story and the portraits that Bowers wrote about the ill fated skiers. Even knowing the outcome from the get go, I found myself tearing up when the inevitable came near the end of the book.

After the avalanche occurs, the last quarter of the book focuses on the search and rescue and recovery efforts. To me though, it seems like a lot of risk was taken, even after the outcome of the skiers was already known. But there was great pressure from the media to get the skiers home, alive or not. This tragedy occurred in a very small town, so the intrusion of the media was not exactly welcomed and they wanted to show themselves in a positive light.

I expected to come out of this book more afraid of back country skiing, but it had the opposite effect. Reading about the safety precautions to take, and the benefits that outweigh the fear inside. After all, I could get hit by a bus on my way home from work. If I am meant to die doing something that I love, then so be it.

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