Alex Taran is no stranger to skiing in exotic and extreme places. While the rest of us enjoy summer bike rides and swimming holes, her summer months are spent down south chasing winter in Argentina and Chile. Alex shreds The Andes as a Ski Guide for CASA Tours and teaches avalanche courses for the South American Beacon Project. Her North American Winter finds Alex on the prowl for pow all over the west; Ski Patrolling in Snowbird, crushing Squaw, exploring Jackson, getting weird in Colorado, and everywhere inbetween. She is very proud of the fact that her home is wherever her truck is parked, a very typical sentiment from the Tolkienian heart in all true ski bums. However, this ski yogi has philanthropy, entrepreneurism, and extreme ambition that matches her skiing skills. Taran is headed to the Aleutian Islands, in the middle of the Bering Sea to ski the Vsevidof Volcano. Yes, a volcano. The symmetrical cone summit rises in stark contrast to its surroundings. It is steep, filled with collapsed craters, and is the highest point on Umnak Island. Though it’s last eruption was caused by an earthquake on March 9, 1957, the only fire water Alex will be around is the whiskey she shares with fishermen in Nikolski, AK. Keep it locked with The House for updates on Alex Taran’s incredible adventure and look for this featured story in Powder Magazine coming later this year. Read More
On March 10, 2014 Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol lowered a sled bomb off The Throne ridge which set off an enormous and highly destructive avalanche. A sled bomb is a bag of ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil), in this case 25lbs worth, with a cast booster charge placed on a plastic saucer and lowered via rope. This type of explosive contraption is used by Patrollers to place large charges on steep, dangerously loaded pitches in specific, sensitive, and often recurring points of instability. The intentionally triggered avalanche destroyed Crystal’s Lift 6, left a massive crown at the starting zone, and an impressive debris pile at the toe, which is highlighted in the video above.
The video illustrates a few facts: 1. The avalanche slid nearly 1,000 vertical feet, was highly destructive, and caused a great deal of monetary damage 2. Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol did a great job and deserves an “Atta Boy” rather than condemnation. Washington had good early season snow, a mid-season drought, and a quick, massive snowfall recently creating a very unstable snowpack. After seeing video of the slide as well as observing recent slides in the Cascades, Northwest Avalanche Center director Kenny Kramer said “…we have the potential to see these large slides not just with a massive amount of explosives but also released naturally.”
Whitelines.com called it “a cock-up of epic proportions,” while KOMO.com reported the event “didn’t go quite according to plan,” and other news sources coyly placed blame on Ski Patrol and the resort. Knee-jerk reactions like these are disrespectful, uninformed, and uneducated. What would the reaction be if Patrol had opened the area to public without doing the proper mitigation and someone was killed? What if Patrollers skied into exposed terrain and lost their lives using hand-charges instead of a sled bomb? “Not according to plan” infers that these trained professionals were somehow trying to predict and direct Mother Nature. Throw a rock into a pond and direct the ripples. The ever so English response of “a cock-up” misses the most obvious fact of this event. Ski Patrol did their job. They observed danger and mitigated it. Yes, a lift was destroyed, which was unintended and misfortunate. But everyone went home to their families at the end of the day. That is the number one priority and the point of on-resort avalanche control work.
Shame on you for placing blame on individuals who are underpaid and underappreciated rather than thanking them for protecting lives. Patrolling is not something you do, it is a part of who you are. First ones up, last ones down; we risk ours to save yours; we are the best part of your worst day. Great job Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol. Keep up the good work. Hip Hip Hooray and Atta Boy!
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I was at the SnowSports Industries of America Trade Show (SIA 2014), talking with my boss about the next ski to check out when I caught a flash of hot pink from the corner of my eye. Startled, I turned and there I saw him, the legendary mohawked and freewheeling Glen Plake. My jaw dropped, I raised my hand and pointed while blurting out “Holy Sh*t! That’s Glen Plake!” After composing myself for a few minutes, allowing His Radness to converse with his friends, I asked for an interview. Meeting Glen Plake is a highlight for me personally and professionally. He has been one of my skiing heros since I first clicked in. I hope you enjoy the conversation…
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