It's been almost four years to the day since the Tunnel Creek avalanche that killed three incredible men and could have killed me, and not a day goes by that I don't think about it still. The horrifying moments from that day haunt me when I try to fall asleep, when I'm out in snow-covered mountains, when a storm blows in and the wind whips through the trees.
I recently interviewed pro skier JT Holmes, who was caught and buried in a slide in the Tahoe area in January, for a story for Powder magazine's website. JT's story could have ended up very differently, but thankfully, he got lucky. His partners dug him out in around six minutes and although he'd blacked due to lack of oxygen, he was still alive and eventually was able to ski out of the incident, more or less unharmed.
"I could see bits of light outlining the snow chunks while I tried to smash my head back and forth to create an air pocket. But that quickly became futile," JT told me. "Then it went dark. The last thing I heard was snow moving above me, like the sound of wind blowing snow around. Then nothing. Silence. Zero visibility. I was alone with my thoughts."
You'll have to read JT's interview to understand even just a fraction of what he went through and what he'll continue to go through as he moves on from this avalanche.
It's all a reminder to be safe out there in the backcountry. Get educated and properly equipped. Read the forecast. Make smart decisions. Don't be afraid to say no and turn around.