In the early 90's I was fortunate to go snow skiing in Switzerland. I started out skiing with new found friends but out paced them and went off on my own. It was a dream of mine to ski Zermatt and the Matterhorn and I wanted to 'really ski'.
When I attained my ski lift ticket I was handed a beacon. It was the size of a Bic lighter and I thought it was a pretty good idea.
How little did I know at that point in the morning how important a beacon could be.
Several hours into my joyous day of skiing on top of the worlds most beautiful glacier I found myself dangling 15 feet off the ground while taking a ground based pulley lift up the glacier. Part of the mountain had slid away. I didn't know if I should jump off the tow bar that was now wedge up my butt crack or hold on for dear life. I ended up jumping off when the the tow bar came closer to the ground. It was a good feeling to feel the ground beneath my skis.
Later on that same day I felt the oddest feeling. I was skiing across the mountain but the snow in front of me was moving. In a blink of an eye I realized I was in an avalanche. Out of shear luck I skied down and across with the slide and ended up on my butt surrounded by a foot of snow that was not moving.
I was totally dazed. My heart was pounding and my nervous system was freaking wacked out.
As I surveyed the site I visually found the ski lift and headed for it, following it down to the small hut that was stationed next to the load up ramp. No one was there. ( WTF ! ) I then took the trail back down to base camp. Along the way I noticed that something was glowing - the beacon.
I got to the base camp and was asked some questions and was accounted for.
I sat down, ordered a hot drink and decided I had enough skiing for awhile.
When leaving I handed over the now silent lifeless beacon, knowing that it may have saved my life if the snow had decided to roll a little differently.
I can't help wondering if the two skiers who recently lost their lives would be alive now if they had a gps beacon that would lead rescuers to them before they had died. The technology is there, why isn't is being used ?
If you ski alone or in sanctioned out of bounds areas, please take your cell phone or investigate getting a beacon.
Photo taken at base camp, Zermatt, Switzerland.
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