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A young snowboarder died in an avalanche on Colorado’s Berthoud Pass this past Sunday morning.
Samuel Teetzen’s day probably started out like many of yours or mine — excited about fresh powder and adventure with friends. He was found without his avalanche beacon, reports say he left it in his car. One wonders what went through Teetzen’s mind as he headed for an avalanche slope with his snowboard, but no avalanche safety gear. Did he know it was an avalanche slope? Or had Samuel for some reason let down his guard (something we’ve all done on occasion).
Reports say Teetzen might have died from trauma, making a beacon less of an issue. But it is an issue. First, other people had to possibly risk their lives during a lengthy search, if he’d had a beacon the search would have taken mere minutes. Second, staying alive in avalanche country is all about attitude. At home or the trailhead, putting your beacon on and testing it becomes a ritual that hopefully switches your brain to “avy mode.” It’s sad nothing that morning seemed to have caused Teetzen to think he was riding a slope with avalanche danger, and thus caused him to take switch to “avy mode” and take more precautions.
Teetzen’s accident brings another issue to the fore. Accounts state it was difficult to dig him out because of the snowboard still strapped to his feet. Whether you’re using skis or snowboard, will your gear come off if you get caught in a slide? Something to think about.
A tragic accident all of us can learn from. When you exit your car at the trailhead, turn the switch on your beacon to “avy mode,” but more importantly, do the same with your state of mind.
(Edited by Lou, November 2010, in response to feedback from family members who found my original writing style to appear harsh.)
I sincerely pray that the ski and snowboard culture on Berthoud pass changes to a safer approach. Why it has gotten to this point is beyond me. A cultural anomaly that saddens and even embarrasses me.