Avalanche of responses to snowmobile column

  • Fri Mar 26th, 2010 1:21pm
  • Life

By Sharon Wootton

Last week’s column on avalanches and snowmobilers struck a chord with readers. Hours after Saturday’s newspaper arrived, the phone calls and e-mails started.

The column’s message was that we need, as individuals, to make decisions (smart ones, we hope) about placing ourselves in harm’s way (severe avalanche dangers) regardless of what adventure companies offer, or peer pressure demands.

The parallel message was to take responsibility for our part without placing all the blame on someone else.

Here’s a sample of opinions, which ran heavily in favor of owning that responsibility and not blaming everyone else:

Judy Reed, Darrington: “You have got it so right, and thank you for having the courage to write this article. I’m of the generation that was taught that there are consequences for our actions … Every winter we read about snowmobilers or skiers (who get in trouble because of where they go).”

Sue Canney, Lynnwood: “The article hit the nail on the head. We have to take personal responsibility for our actions … With the Web (available for information about avalanches) we have no reason anymore for stupidity.”

As Brent Anderson rightly pointed out, I wrote that “Ask the snowmobilers who were high marking and weakening the snowpack …” when I should have said that they triggered the avalanche.

Anderson also wrote: “I’m curious why, in the aftermath of such a tragedy, you feel the need to write such an article … especially considering this happened hundreds of miles away, in another country?”

After years of writing about the outdoors and reading about too many preventable deaths and the finger-pointing aftermath, this tragedy was one too many. And I believe that there’s no difference in Canadian and American snowmobilers or the issues.

Anderson wrote of two other tragedies, making three British Columbia avalanches and five dead in about a week. In one, two French skiers (in a group of eight) died after being lifted to a peak by a licensed heli-ski operator and caught by an avalanche. Earlier, a snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche.

“I’ll be watching intently for a follow-up article, written in the same tone, condemning the heli-skiers … Who will you blame for that accident?”

Anderson and I do agree that there are challenges worth taking, and that many accidents can be avoided through education and awareness.

“People will seek to conquer them (challenges). I also know that there are those who will continue to push the limits of man, machine, and yes, even nature.

“It is this spirit of adventure that leads men and women to the highest peaks, the deepest depths, across oceans and continents, and into space. And they do so of their own free will … no blame needed.”

Richard Jauch, Camano Island, wrote: “What a great article about snowmobiles. You are sure to have alerted at least a few folks that prefer to live and have fun rather than show how stupid they can be.”

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.