Today, the New York Times published a story called “Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” which gives a 16,000 word, gripping account of the avalanche on the backside of Stevens Pass last winter that claimed the lives of three incredible men. It is one of the longest stories the New York Times has ever run and the interactive media components of the project are sure to set the stage for what’s possible in the future of digital media.
I was there that horrific day and wrote about it for Outside Magazine in October in a story called “Tunnel Vision.” When New York Times writer John Branch first contacted me about his piece, I was skeptical. How was he going to paint the picture of what happened that day? What kind of judgment would he pass on our decision making? And, when 34 people were killed in avalanches last winter, why has there been so much media attention on this one in particular? (See Gawker for more on that.) In the end, John Branch did a truly exceptional job — he offered the most detailed, well-reported account of that day I’ve ever heard, he explained the lure of backcountry skiing to a mainstream audience, and most importantly, he honored Chris, Jim, and Johnny.
My love goes out to their families and everyone involved that day. I’m sorry we have to re-live it again, but if stories like “Snowfall” help even one person avoid the same situation we found ourselves in, then I am thankful.