Epic Evening at 5Point Film Festival 2011

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 11, 2009      
Backcountry skiing movies.

WildSnow Reviews

If you show a death trip and a comedy on the same night at a film festival, which should go first?

When we heard Friday evening was comedy night at 5Point Film Festival here in Carbondale, Lisa and I agreed, that’s our time to go. After all, you see a few adventure films, some will be fun to watch and get you on the edge of your seat. But adrenaline is a stress hormone, while laughing causes health. So there.

Problem was, 5Point selected this pesky sixty minute bombast about base jumping they had to fit in somewhere. More, a few other downers sprinkled into the mix made me want to head down the street to the nearby Black Nugget bar and do three shooters of Jack, which doesn’t cause health, thus canceling out the nutritional gains of comedy. But let’s begin at the beginning.

Backcountry Skiing

Friday evening at 5-Points Film Festival.

The evening began with an arty pile of pixels called “The Red Helmet,” in which a young boy around nine years old balks at the challenge of diving off a dock during a lake swim. He then finds a magic red helmet, which upon application to his cranium causes his mind to wander on a great epic of adventure sports. You get the impression that after his fantasy journey, the young man is liberated from his fears as he leaps of the dock and splashes in.

Simple concept. Take up an adventure sport (or perhaps a dozen if so moved), confront your fears, conquer fear itself. But more, recapture your youthful joy. I don’t know if ice climbing ever helped me conquer my fear of the IRS, but it certainly helped. As for joy, yep (no lie, I used to smile while ice climbing). So “Red Helmet” worked for me. Innocent, basic, nicely done. Check it out below.

Ok, now the endorphins are burning holes in my skull. Time to quench the fire. What better for that than to see yet another skiing gladiator, this time known as Trevor Hiatt, nearly lose his life for a few seconds of video on a nondescript cliff? You can watch this footy at Patogonia’s Tin Shed, it’s called “Snowmany Possibilities.

But, the Hiatt flick redeemed itself. Despite my discomfort with what I’ve been calling “injury heroics,” or what’s probably not PC, “wheelchair vids.” I like the way Trevor talks things out and how he claims his limelight for some crystal ball gazing. While I’ve got trouble agreeing that skiing backwards is the future of big mountain skiing, we’ll only know what the future is when we get there, so perhaps he’s right. Conclusion: As we constantly harp on here, we want to see adventure ski movies with some story or at least a bit of interpretive narration. “Snowmany Possibilities” has it, so good.

So, after learning from Trevor what it’s like to splinter every bone in your face and nearly die, it was time to try and scour up a few endorphins again. What better for that than a fishing movie? In that respect, Beattie Production’s “Nervous Water” totally delivers. Nothing earth shattering, just beautiful shots of worldwide adventure angling. Perfectly edited. My simple criteria for a great fishing film: it should moisten my eyes. Done.

Oh, and along with mind blowing fishing we were promised an “all women” surf movie that didn’t skimp on the bikinis. I was of course all for that. After all, once the brain chemistry was amped, might as well take it over the top with the ultimate in male cerebral input. Due to a glitch the surf movie didn’t happen (aw shucks), but was instead replaced by a wonderful fantasy also filmed by director Tiffany Morgan. Subject: Girl solo sails wherever she pleases (mostly tropical), surfs, harvests coconuts, and generally does whatever she can to spend her trust fund wisely. I loved it and so did Lisa. Pure tropical fantasy. I’m smiling even now while thinking about it.

Yeah baby, with the endorphins already flowing like the Colorado river in springtime, let’s take it over the top. I’d heard snips about climbing comedian Timmy O’Neill, but never experienced the guy’s special brand of laugh. Next presentation (live this time) would remedy that.

Backcountry Skiing

Mallory and Dr. Death Zone illuminating the mysteries of the universe.

Totally over the top. O’Neill comes on stage as Dr. Steven “Death Zone” Clark, Mount Everest expert extraordinaire. He’s been to Everest basecamp 19 times, but never above it. Even so, he’s decked out in the latest high altitude suit, and brings the top artifacts from his Everest collection.

Second best artifact, Everest Water, that vaunted H20 which when misted over a needy soul (as Dr. Death Zone does over the audience with squirt bottles), imparts many special things (none of which I got clear on, which is no doubt part of the effect.)

Best artifact: George Mallory, the man who was lost high on Everest in 1924, and is still believed by some to have reached the top.

Dr. Death Zone unpacks the mummified Mallory from a large wood shipping crate (of course noisily pulling the screeching nails with an antique ice ax), whereupon the legendary climber falls to the stage amidst the packing material and re-animates through some unknown process that probably involves the Everest water. The good doctor then proceeds to engage the discombobulated Mallory in a lengthy conversation that practically had me rolling in the isles. Many subjects are addressed, such as what Mallory feels like missing part of his rear end, which was eaten by birds during his 85 year sleep on an Everest talus field, and the missing tin of beef lozenges which he’d been planning on leaving at the summit — conversation about which didn’t quite seem to jog the man’s memory for a definitive answer.

If you ever ever get the chance to see this, don’t not miss it. And credit to Jeb Berrier as Mallory.

Uh oh, too many positive brain chemicals, time for another downer. Next endorphin clamp was a cheesy diatribe of negativity called “Don’t Let it All Unravel.” The two minute animation depicts the world as knitting, with a string of yard being pulled and slowly unraveling it all, while a disharmonious techno choir chants something like “save the planet” ad nauseum. Frankly, I simply do not see the point of this kind of stuff. Preaching to the choir is an understatement. I just hit the delete key on the next 300 words. Let’s leave it at that. I’ll not embed this pesky little thing, but you can watch it at YouTube.

Next, a kayak flick brought things up a bit. “African Revolutions Tour” is a film about boating a variety of rivers in Africa, replete with rapids that could swallow an elephant, and hungry crocodiles waiting for snacks.

“African Revolutions” had some amusing moments. But what is it about kayak films? I’ve never unicycled, but I can watch Kris Holm for hours. I’ve never deep ocean sailed, but I can dig a whole 30 minute flick about a girl goofing around on a boat. I’ve never fly fished for and caught a trophy brown trout, but seeing that event on film makes me cry. Then I watch a 33 minute kayak movie and nearly all I can think about is what kind of parasites are these kids getting from that African water? The social change they ostensibly supported through the movie was excellent (solar ovens for Africans in desperate circumstance), but a bit of social change content doesn’t save a movie. In fact, it can just make it go on too long, as it did in this case. Boaters, go ahead and flame me.

As mentioned long ago at the start of this little series of movie reviews, a death trip was coming. In this case BASE jumping was on the menu. “20 Seconds of Joy” is 3,600 seconds of story about Karina Hollekim’s life as a BASE jumper. And nearly every one of those 3,600 seconds felt like a bad landing.

Yep, I’m not a big fan of BASE jumping. Stated more strongly, if I never saw BASE jumping in a movie again, I’d be a very happy camper.

Why? Because as stated by an expert in “20 Seconds of Joy,” if you take up the “sport” of BASE jumping, chances are you’ll die doing it. What is more, in a moment of journalistic compromise, the ground breaking ski movie “Steep” implied BASE jumping with skis was somehow the ultimate extension (or at least the future of) big mountain skiing. In doing so, they wasted valuable minutes that could have added to their definitive historical documentary. We can never get those minutes back.

Big mountain skiing and ski mountaineering are survivable sports that can be done for decades by a careful and committed practitioner, often with little to no physical tragedy beyond cranky knees. BASE jumping is simply not that kind of activity. At least the way the sport is practiced and equipped presently, you are simply not going to see 70-year-old base jumpers who have been getting out for 75+ days a year, the way some older ski mountaineers are still after it. To put it bluntly, Shane McConkey, the promulgator of BASE jumping who “Steep” featured, is now dead after a jumping accident.

So, back to “3,600 Seconds of Pain.” Karina doesn’t die, but ends up in a wheelchair. I heard some social justice or change content attempts to lift the movie up, but I couldn’t watch the flick long enough to get to that part (I know, not very pro for a movie blogger, but reality strikes). So let me know if you do sit through it, and what you think.

Meanwhile, from that Friday night at 5-Points I’ve got some fantastic pictures in my head. I’m thinking of that young gal at the wheel of her boat; a man with a fly rod and a really big fish; some Africans who can now boil water without firewood; perhaps Mallory did make it; my helmet is now red. As for my possible Black Nugget soujourn, all the evening’s great flicks combined with O’Neill’s commedy easily cancled out the downers, so I was saved from cheap bourbon.

Thanks everyone who put 5Point together. Great job and we hope to see it happen again next year!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


38 Responses to “Epic Evening at 5Point Film Festival 2011”

  1. Dave Field May 11th, 2009 12:34 pm

    HI Lou,
    Great commentary! Its rereshing to hear somebody just give their opinion and not make any apologies. I particularly enjoyed your insight about the potential for 70 year old BASE jumpers. I am so sick of all the extreme sports and focus on who’s really pushing the limits of what’s humanly survivable. I enjoy the mountains as a reaffirmation of being alive and while I’m sure those extreme athletes are glad to survive another episode, at some point it seems that they are numb to the joy that can even be found as something so mundane as 70 days of powder turns in your 70’s or fishing or sailing, whatever.

  2. Lou May 11th, 2009 1:18 pm

    Dave, I originally was titling this post as “Life, chances are you’ll die doing it, but most of us delay the inevitable.” Sports that get so high risk you’ll probably die doing them definitely go over a line. We all need to be intellectually honest about this stuff, and really examine the risk/reward ratio of some of what we’re glorifying. Sure, some of this stuff is practiced by an elite few who accept the consequences in return for pushing human limits, but that has to be balanced with the hype. I used to think the radical European extreme skiing was getting close to the line on this, but BASE definitely takes the cake.

  3. Randonnee May 11th, 2009 1:57 pm

    I find it a cruel joke to hear after the death of young people who died that “they were doing what they loved’ as if that justifies their death. With my 30 years of ski touring without fame but with many quality experiences I look forward to emulating my friend Ludwig. He again climbed and skied Mt Adams at age 71 last year with me- he has ski toured for 60+ years and continues.

    Agreed, views tempered by maturity, real life experience and reasonable judgment are what impressed me to begin with about Wildsnow. An interesting concept is found in the Hemingway short story “The Short Happy Life of Frances Macomber,” with the five seconds of absolute fulfillment found just before being killed by an ultimate ironic act of betrayal. While it is a reach for me to connect this, this seems to relate to these death-challenge sports.

    As well, part of my Dynafit fascination is the approach of the marketing- they just want to make and market light gear for ski touring that performs well. In both, no stunts, no PC-serving hot air, no denial of reality in exchange for sensation.

    This whole ski world has so much thinking or repetition of mantra that deny reality and serve hardly any significant purpose, except when used to sell gear or self-promote in order to be given gear. It is refreshing to read a thoughtful and reasonable view of some of this hyped- up fashionable drivel.

  4. dave downing May 11th, 2009 3:37 pm

    if people want to push the boundaries of what’s survivable, then so be it. It’s there call. This is the same argument of wearing a helmet, or not. Of alpine, tele or snowboarding. dukes or dynafit. go skiing or don’t. Do what you want, don’t rip to hard on those that choose a different path.

    If you truly want to delay your exit from the planet, then I suggest you stop driving to the trailhead and skiing over 15 degree slopes. The roads a dangerous place. I don’t BASE, but i’m sure I do things others consider “risky”. How many lifelong skiers sustain a serous injury in their career? Broken legs? blown knees?

    There is also a difference between a BASE jumper that does just that, and someone like McConkey who was “pushing” the limits of what’s possible. Let’s not mix the 2 together.

    As for the review on Karina Hollekim’s film. I have to question your decision to blast it without finishing it. I met a lot of people who seemed moved by it’s tragedy. I haven’t seen it, but would like too. It might be messed up, but thus is life.

    Just my 2 cents.

  5. Lou May 11th, 2009 3:56 pm

    Good points you guys. Nice to see some thoughts about all this stuff. I’m plenty moved by the tragedy of the Karina film, as her story is all over the Internet. Just couldn’t sit through it 100%, if that was mistake, then so be it. I didn’t have any commitment to do so, and took the out. What bothered Lisa and I the most was the shot of all the young kids at the top of a cliff getting ready to jump, this when just a short time before it had been explicitly explained that death would be certain. With a kid growing up doing adventure sports, we just couldn’t take seeing it brought to that point. Emotionally weak or whatever, that’s the way it went down.

  6. bj May 11th, 2009 4:25 pm

    Gotta disagree with you Lou, I thought 20 Seconds of Joy was maybe the most powerful film of the whole festival, and I saw almost every one. It ended with reality giving her a slap in the face in the form of a life-altering injury, and making her realize what the truly important things are in life, like friends, and how selfish our ambitions can be, regardless of what sport we are pursuing. Sorry you didn’t dig it.

  7. hunter May 11th, 2009 4:30 pm

    20 Seconds of Joy was the audience winner at Banff in 2007 (beating our film, as you would guess Lou “grin”) because the film wasn’t about the jumps and stunts that Karina was doing, but because of the human element that the film explored. Karina’s family, friends, and significant others were afraid, worried and sometimes appalled at the risks and lifestyle that she had undertaken and Karina herself is somewhat introspective by acknowledging her need and addictive urges to keep jumping and its impact on those closest to her. It’s more a story of the very nature of the risks that many of us are willing to test than it is about “badass” jumps. Jens, the filmmaker, told me (whilst drinking heavily at the time) that one of the biggest challenges while editing the film, was to impart to the audience that it wasn’t a film about BASE jumping, but a film about the emotional and psychological impacts of the sport. Therein lies the rub, since he wasn’t able to engage everyone that’s viewed the film in such a way. Now Red Helmet, that was an easy and enjoyable one to figure out!

  8. Lou May 11th, 2009 5:18 pm

    The point the director was trying to make was not lost on me. For some reason it just didn’t work. Yeah, I didn’t watch the last few minutes, but more, the whole thing just seemed like too much glorifying. Lisa and I have met a few other folks who also didn’t like it, so I’m not feeling totally out voted (grin). Glad you guys found it good. That said, I hope you’re not taking up BASE jumping.

  9. Dostie May 11th, 2009 6:02 pm

    When it comes to risky sports there’s a fair amount of luck when you first start, but eventually it boils down to knowing “when to hold, and when to fold.” Adrenaline can easily mask the warnings of our conscience and therein lies the real danger of risky sports. The thrills of “dodging the bullet” can become a justification for recklessness. Living to come back and try again doesn’t have the same “high” that surviving a close call does, but it sure beats not surviving.

    My mentor gave up skiing at age 70 not because he couldn’t ski anymore, but because he valued being able to walk more than skiing. He reasoned that at his age an injury could become permanent, eliminating his ability to age gracefully with his wife of 50+ years and to spend his weekends hiking to his fave fishing holes in the Sierra. I respect him even more for that decision. I miss the ability to ski with him, but at least he’s still around to chew the fat with. I’m sure his family agrees emphatically.

    Back on task, it sounds like a great mini-film fest to check out. Hope it makes it to the Tahoe/Reno area soon.

  10. OLDDUDE May 12th, 2009 9:14 am

    Extreme sports are a metaphor for life.If you continue to live you will eventually die. We have some control over the process if we cultivate wisdom. When we are young we focus on the content of experience. As we age wisely we focus more on the process.
    Olddudes rule

  11. Lou May 12th, 2009 10:25 am

    Good points there Olddude! You rule!

  12. Sean May 13th, 2009 9:17 am

    Lou, just a quick observation, the unicyclist’s name is Kris Holm, not Chris Holmes. People who want to see what amazing things Kris does need to have the right name to enter on Google or YouTube to find his talents on display!

    As to the risk/reward discussion, we all see different risks, based on our own experiences. After injuring my shoulder mountain biking, my employer (at the time) asked me why I participated in such a dangerous sport. To him, golf was all the sport and risk one needed.

    My personal line gets drawn between human performance on one side, and merely surviving a stunt on the other. I don’t know the calculus, but in my brain, at a certain level of risk, the human performance (skill, experience, etc) goes out the window and mere survival of a stunt becomes the focus.

    If my fellow humans want to get all amped up on adrenaline from watching “extreme” sports, and then go try something well beyond their abilities, I’m not too concerned. Charles Darwin had a few things to say about that.

  13. Lou May 13th, 2009 9:30 am

    Sean, I knew that… whoops! I’ll fix. Sorry Kris.

  14. Sam May 13th, 2009 11:55 am

    I sat through 20 Seconds at a Banff screening, but just barely. It struck me as self indulgent and trite.

    Aside from the fact that BASE jumping seems more like a game than a sport, I have a hard time watching the coddled offspring of the World’s elite traipse about pretending that there is something deeply meaningful to others about them getting their adrenaline fix in an exotic location. Can’t we all be honest about this and stop making a big show out of how a Rich Young White Person jumping off a big rock in Africa is an enlightening experience for the world….really if the resources and energy expended to put that RYWP on top of that rock had been put into education or infrastructure development or something useful, functional or even morally meaningful then maybe…The RYWP is lucky enough to have the resources to be on top of the rock and the opportunity to jump off it. That is pretty damn cool and while we might feel better about how cool we think it is if we tell ourselves that they are spreading the word about the plight of the local people or increasing awareness of some devastating issue that they would otherwise not known about or whatever, we are really just fooling ourselves. Solving tough problems takes loads of work, loads of resources and loads of time. It is insulting to people who actually tackle these problems to put an RYWP adrenaline junkie athlete on their level.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for jumping off rocks, climbing rocks, jumping over them on skis, whatever gets you off. I’m just tired of watching 20 year-olds claim that the way in which they happen to jump off rocks makes the world better…it really doesn’t. Find something you love to do and go do it. Don’t feel the need to justify your pursuit/practice/passion by claiming that your passion makes the world better for other people or gives others insight into the fundamentals of the universe. Pursuing these passions will likely make your life better and perhaps the lives of the those with whom you practice. That should be good enough. I don’t need my ski movie to have a social message and chances are that its’ bullshit claims of having one won’t make it a better ski movie. I’ve replaced BASE movie in the previous sentence with ski movie since I can’t think of too many things more boring than watching someone else BASE jump..perhaps watching rocks fall…?

  15. Lou May 13th, 2009 12:46 pm

    Good comments Sam!

    My thoughts:
    People who have been quietly doing volunteer work and tithing most of their lives watch this stuff and cringe. Some of these films need to tone it down. I think the backstory for an adventure/risk activity can be interesting, but it’s not child’s play to film and document it in a way that goes beyond eye candy and exploitation. In reality, some of the 3rd world volunteer work a lot of people do under the radar is WAY more risky than some if not most adventure sports.

    Nothing wrong with giving back in a very public way if it’s played well. But a lot of this stuff does seem like either a very half-hearted attempt to make a movie deeper, or some kind of penance. It’s easier just to give in private. Shoot, some guru way back when said that a person should even pray in private, let alone give.

  16. Dostie May 13th, 2009 2:44 pm

    Some guru? C’mon Lou, come clean!

  17. Frank Konsella May 13th, 2009 3:28 pm

    I suspect that the reason many films have a “message” is that people seeking $ to do the things they love know how to be successful. Let’s say skier A and skier B both want to ski some big peaks in Peru and want to defray their costs by seeking sponsorship. Skier A send in a proposal to The North Face and the Hans Saari Memorial Fund saying “I’m going to ski some cool stuff in Peru” Skier B sends proposals to the same places saying “I’m going to ski some cool stuff in Peru while documenting the retreat of glaciers in the area due to global warming” All else being equal, skier B gets the $.

  18. Lou May 13th, 2009 6:17 pm

    I know the Naz said that, and probably Gandhi too… most people are uncomfortable with folks bragging on their charity, and come to think of it a lot of these movies are treading a fine line with that…

  19. Dan T. May 14th, 2009 8:45 am

    I think Frank’s got it right.

    I know a guy who was doing volunteer NGO work in Rwanda during the massacre – like if your Land Cruiser gets stuck you die stuff – reminds you that even “extreme” sport is just that – sport .

    I live in a place chock full of Sam’s ” RYWPs” – but let’s face it – any of us that can afford to spend time and money on recreation are “rich” . The” we’re saving the world ” hypocrisy , especially on the environment , is pretty comical.

    In the mean time I’m trying to turn a pair of FR10’s I got cheap into “poor man’s Manaslu’s” involving clamps, rope and hot water – putting a little rocker in the tip – seems to be working ! Saving the world … one pair of skis at a time …


  20. OLDDUDE May 14th, 2009 9:29 am

    Don’t forget that finding “meaning” in life is often a meaningless experience but to paraphrase Woody Allen, as far as meaningless experiences go it’s one of the best. In our pop culture world just celebrating the joy of being a human being with all of its rough edges, if not necessary, at least reminds us that not everything needs to be verbal or on sale. We dont need to dissect everything.
    ps Lou- I always feel better about myself after I pass your skill testing question that allows me to post here

  21. Lou May 14th, 2009 9:46 am

    I know, that challenge question is quite the filter!

  22. Sean May 14th, 2009 12:23 pm

    I really like Sam’s comments.

    I don’t agree with those who say these are just “smart businesskids” because there are infinite ways to present whatever you do as a “smart businesskid” con-jobbing The North Face into financing your junket to do “extreme” things in a foreign land. The callous materialism informing such a view to me says a lot about how corroded American culture has become, how artificial, how deeply rooted in slick salesmanship and lying-for-personal-gain. There’s nothing at all admirable, IMO, about a early 20s con artist scamming a free trip to ski in Peru while filming a socially irresponsible “documentary” of that scammed trip. It’s not admirable at all — it’s the direct opposite of “admirable.”

    PS to Lou — didn’t mean to be critical of you re Kris Holm’s name, I just want people reading here to be able to find him on Google and You Tube, so they can see for themselves what an immense talent he is.

  23. Lou May 14th, 2009 12:48 pm

    Sean, no offense taken, quite the opposite, I depend on you guys to step it up and keep things accurate here. So thanks!

  24. Randonnee May 14th, 2009 2:11 pm

    Good discussion! What of the costs to society after a serious injury? A serious injury is tragic even when not a result of extreme risk-taking, and perhaps more tragic when the seeking of risk is capricious. Serious injury can incur hundreds of thousands of dollars’ healthcare costs in the months after the injury. Those costs are rarely if ever paid by the obsessively extreme risk-taking individual or their family, but at best burden insurers and, often, burden the healthcare system. The costs, I would guess, are not covered by the gear-selling sponsors- does Red Bull provide medical insurance coverage along with sponsorship? *(please tell me if this is wrong)*

    Some say that an individual has a “right” to risky behavior (?), but unfortunately society does not have the “right” to refuse to pay the costs for serious injury incurred while someone seeks fame through selfish, egotistical risk-taking that has virtually no positive value to society. Then, there are lifetime costs, loss of lifetime opportunities to the individual and the loved ones of that individual. It is great that the woman featured is coming back physically and determined emotionally- hooray! But what of those permanent paraplegics, for example- some that I have known personally- who were injured while being “extreme.” Do those glibly pushing base jumping and cliff-hucking have a clue of the ongoing misery and horrible physical problems for the rest of a seriously injured person’s life? A friend just today told me of his 20 year-old son’s two year ordeal with back surgeries and pain, lots of pain meds use, after cliff- hucking on skis.

    This is bit of a rant, and I realize it is a bit heavy. My view is related to my background. Many years ago I several times packaged for transport seriously injured and some dead “extreme” skiing teens and adults. Now I care for patients of all sort as a fulltime profession, so I see a lot of the result of serious injury. I see much naive thought and attitude in regard to intentional and capricious risk-taking.

  25. Lenka K. May 15th, 2009 1:03 am

    @ Randonnee

    Rant is a rant is a rant, but I think a quick reply is nevertheless called for.

    1. Pretty much everyone in Europe has health insurance (regardless of whether you’re involved in “extreme” sports or not) and what’s more, that health insurance is there to help those who are sick, so you just won’t end up with huge hospital bills even though you’re insured, as seems to be happening quite often in the U.S.

    2. As to

    “selfish, egotistical risk-taking that has virtually no positive value to society”

    I just say: smoking, drinking, obesity in tens, if not hundreds of millions of Americans.

    Let’s let it rest at that,

    Lenka K.

  26. Randonnee May 15th, 2009 7:52 am


    Quote-“I just say: smoking, drinking, obesity in tens, if not hundreds of millions of Americans.”

    True. Also tragic, I also take care of folks in terrible shape from unhealthy habits as well. That is entirely another topic. Not sure how this relates to the discussion except the statement is used to establish oneself or group as superior and therefore speaking with more importance and just “let it rest at that…”

    Even with your health system, such injuries costs add stress. Those responsible for making the system work have to figure out how to absorb the costs of injury treatment for those capricious, egotistical risk-taking individuals doing extreme-sport activities.

  27. Scott May 15th, 2009 10:31 am


    The safety net that the health system provides is a great thing for personal exploration. Blaming people for taking risks is a dangerous road to go down. After all, who is going to decide how much risk is innapropriate?

    I grew up without health insurance, and it definitely affected my behavior. I didn’t participate in some school sports as a result. It kinda stunk! Having that safety net allows sane people to participate in all sorts of amazing activities that, just a century ago, would only have been attempted by daredevils and psychopaths. I call that progress.

    Would you have everyone refrain from any risky behavior in the name of unburdoning the health care system? You should stop skiing and lead by example.

  28. Lou May 15th, 2009 12:46 pm

    This gets into the debate of if protective gear or advanced medical care causes people to take more physical risk. I believe they do, but there is good data and good thinking that says they do NOT cause people to take more risk.

    When I was in my 20s, I was in business with a guy who was in charge of our health insurance. I broke my leg, and it turned out my partner had not been paying the insurance and I was thus uninsured. I made monthly payments on the hospital bill for a number of years, should probably have just declared bankruptcy and started from scratch, but I’d already been building my credit rating and stuff and just couldn’t face starting from the beginning. Ever since that mistake, I’ve been covered by health insurance, for many years paid for by myself, or by Lisa and I, or recently paid in part through my wife’s job. We made many sacrifices and choices so we could keep ourselves insured and keep our family budget from getting out of hand.

    Back to the subject, I’m certain I would not have been involved in risk sports if I knew a small accident could still result in financial ruin. So when I got caught in an avalanche and broke both legs, the insurance paid most of the $100,000+ medical bills, thus allowing me to continue my self employed career path to where I’m at now. If it hadn’t been for that insurance, I’d probably be flipping burgers at Micky-Ds or something equally as secure (grin).

  29. Randonnee May 15th, 2009 4:35 pm

    Well Scott,

    It is easy for a rational person to argue that a sport such as base jumping, where the attitude is that one will die if one continues in the sport, is inappropriate risk. Would you risk, as Lou explained, an accident that would result in financial ruin? Immature attitudes and statements are certainly associated with these extreme stunts. The good thing about young folks who take up such death sport is that hopefully, there will be no offspring to continue the irrational behavior- that fits Darwinian thought, eh? Again the real tragedy is the lifetime cost of caring for the person who is paraplegic, for example, and the tragedy of their personal suffering and unrealized potential given away for a momentary cheap thrill.

    No, I am not impressed by base jumpers or other extreme idiocy. My view is not that it is extreme courage, it is a lack of judgment and self-control that allows one to feel that these stunts are important. There is hardly any benefit to society from this stuff, it probably is detrimental. Some of us have survived life and death experiences in the military and in some dangerous occupations and therefore appreciate being alive and generally having a sound body. It is sad if one needs to huck his carcass in order to feel important, accomplished, or fulfilled.

  30. Rob May 15th, 2009 5:38 pm

    Wow, context is everything.

    There are those that would say that they are not impressed with ski tourers and their lack of judgment and self-control because everybody knows that ski tourers can get caught in avalanches and die. (Note that I am not one of those people.) There are still others than would argue that skiing in a resort is a dangerous activity.

    I agree that there is zero benefit to society to BASE jumping or other “extreme” sports, but this is true for many pursuits including skiing, climbing, or even hiking.

  31. Lou May 15th, 2009 5:51 pm

    Rob, I disagree about there being zero benefit to society from recreation such as skiing or hiking. Are you sure you take that extreme of a stance? Or were you just overstating?

  32. hunter May 15th, 2009 7:34 pm

    I went skydiving, once, and bungee jumped off of a bridge, twice. I’ve also had some experiences skiing, climbing and canyoneering (not to mention dodging semis on the freeway) that were pretty close to the edge. Thus, according to Randonnee, I am an extreme idiot and hopefully I will die so as not to spread the “extreme” genes on to the next generation. Of course I do doubt that Randonnee really wants me dead, but in all seriousness, where do we draw the boundaries between “extreme” and merely dangerous exploits. What most of us that read Wild Snow do for fun (or work) are considered “extreme” by the vast majority of Americans, and the activities that we do today, wether skiing, biking, climbing, etc, are much more “extreme” than when they were first being done. It could be that in 30 years, what is today’s “extreme” will be tomorrow’s normal.

  33. Randonnee May 15th, 2009 10:49 pm

    Hunter I would answer- sober evaluation of the risks, reasonable judgment and self control. If base jumpers inevitably die or get busted up, how will the sport be normalized in 30 years?

    We all ride in cars at high speed daily, and that is probably more dangerous potentially and statistically than ski touring, climbing, skydiving. Some of this stunt stuff is actually statistically more dangerous than even bicycle riding. Like base jumping, Russian roulette may be equally thrilling. If the best and most gifted athletes die while being extreme on a regular basis, that seems to call the activity into question.

  34. Scott May 16th, 2009 12:01 pm

    Still, the risk needs to be evaluated by the individual, not society. We don’t really live our lives primarily for the benefit to society. We are social animals, but not quite colony insects like Bees or Ants. The world is Orwellian enough already.


    I would take less risk if I had an increased chance of financial ruin or permanent disability. I beleive that one of the benefits of having safety nets is to allow me to take more risks, because I perceive a personal benefit to taking such risks. Further, I have my own personal threshold and ideas about how much risk is appropriate for me. You have your own. It should remain that way.

    When someone starts proposing that I should not be covered by my insurance when I take a risk that someone else deems to be inappropriate, I have a problem with that because I am not comfortable with someone else making that determination. It reminds me of the discussions about local Sherriff’s wanting to charge for rescues made for “risky” behavior. Who determines what is “risky”?

  35. Randonnee May 16th, 2009 7:41 pm

    Yup, thats what I’m sayin= “Still, the risk needs to be evaluated by the individual, not society.” Agreed, death-sports enthusiasts should pull their head out of their fourth point of contact and consider the consequences aside from their brief and transient cheap thrill. I have never advocated legislating to control risky choices, I have just argued for sober, adult consideration of risk and consequences. Personally, I hopefully have enough coverage and resources for my family to weather an accident, but I do not intend to ever get injured in the least and make decisions accordingly. This conservative approach has worked for 30 years and thousands of days’ skiing on avalanche terrain.

    The discussion of cost matters only because society subsidizes healthcare whether one pays for insurance or otherwise is covered for healthcare costs. No enmity intended here, but if someone has a million bucks in the bank to pay their lifetime healthcare costs fine with me if they choose to huck their meat and get busted up or killed. Perhaps it that would indeed improve the gene pool.

  36. NORTH.BEND May 18th, 2009 8:58 am

    Just a reminder that a bad day of base jumping is, essentially, the end of your life.

    I can have a bad day of skiing, hiking, mountain biking and still make it home.

  37. Lou May 18th, 2009 9:04 am

    Good point North.Bend.

  38. OLDDUDE May 18th, 2009 9:28 am

    This is worth reading re this discussion.

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