As skiers, we’re faced with difficult decisions all the time. While you can still encounter plenty of dangers in many resorts, if you find yourself venturing into the backcountry, the risks increase exponentially. In most patrolled ski areas around the world, your largest concern is if the line is doable. Not to say that areas inbounds can’t slide, as they repeatedly do, but the majority of the time you can be confident that if ski patrol has opened it, you’re in the clear. Once the angels in red and white are no longer bombing your lines however, that’s a different story. The weight rests on your shoulders to determine not only if you can ski it, but if you should.
In the second installment of ‘Mammut Aspects | Stories from avalanche terrain’, we get the inside scoop on professional skiers Jérémie Heitz and Sam Anthamatten’s journey into the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges of northern Pakistan. Nearly three years ago, the pair set off for the second expedition of their project, La Liste: Everything or Nothing. But upon arriving to their desired lines, they found incredibly precarious avalanche conditions. This real life case analysis is a perfect example of how listening to the mountains can lead to incredible pay offs. And ignoring the obvious signs, or not doing your research will undoubtedly lead you and your group into extremely undesirable situations.
While we might not all find ourselves in the 6000 meter peaks of Pakistan, there are still dangerous snow packs that we come across throughout winter all across the globe. From Vail to Valdez, no matter where you’re skiing, if you’re out of bounds, it’s crucial that you and your team are prepared, in both equipment and knowledge. Sam and Jérémie are a glowing image of how being prepared and trusting your partners can lead you to better results. And at the bare minimum, it can help make sure that you’re doing everything you can to come home alive. As we all know, there’s more to life than skiing, as much as we would sometimes like to otherwise think. Do your best to understand the mountains around you, and as is pointed out by Jérémie, walking away can be an opportunity to come back another day.