Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
The mountains give so much. But oh how they take. Avalanche victim Cory Brettmann’s memorial this past Friday afternoon, atop Aspen Mountain, brought that point to me like a gut punch.
Brettmann was a big man with a big heart. Hearing stories of his life brought an admixture of sadness and laughter to a standing room only crowd at the Sundeck restaurant. We laughed as his friends shared stories of Brettmann’s life as a ski patroller and mountain man — and sadness stung our hearts, that a life would be cut short by the mountains we so often associate with love and joy.
Over the years Louie and I have skied together, I’ve been a big advocate of tree skiing as a way to avoid much of Colorado’s frequently high avalanche danger. Yet having seen more than a few other tragedies like Cory’s, I’ve tried my best to communicate that if the trees are open and the snow touchy, danger lurks. Seeing Cory’s accident site brought this home like nothing else we could have looked at. Worth a dozen avalanche classes.
(Some of you might wonder how were were able to safely ski here. A bit of new snow had fallen on the bed surface, but the whole area was hacked up by the rescue and other site visitors, so we had little worry. On the other hand, we passed above a number of similar slopes while skiing over to this one. They indeed looked tempting and some were already scribed with ski tracks.)