Where Is The Line?
It’s a topic that is always debated in the snow sports world and right now I think is a good time to be raising the question of are we putting enough thought into a simple social media post?
With freeride and backcountry skiing and snowboarding progressing in the way that it is and the general skier/snowboarder showing more interest in pushing their limits in the mountains, it’s natural that accidents are going to happen. This is the downside of mountain life and this winter has seen many deaths in Europe alone including Baja, the guide who was securing the Freeride Tour face in Andorra. But my question is this: are the people who have influence and who are role models doing their part to show that it’s not good to get into dangerous situations. The rise in social media is, in my opinion, a great thing. It inspires people, it showcases what we as humans are capable of and it gives some people meaning and focus to what they are doing.
This article was inspired by two recent social media posts by two brothers at the top of their game. The first post is explaining how to look for safe spots before dropping into a face which is a great idea to share that knowledge, but the caption reads as follows; “ I knew this slope was going to slide, so I chose my safe spots” Now what started as a great learning tool for people has an immediate red flag to me. If he knew the slope would slide then there is only ONE option, you turn around and go back.
I am not at all questioning this person’s knowledge because they know more then I could ever learn about snow safety and are still one of my idols, but that one sentence tells others that its ok that the slope will slide because you have a safe spot…….. The next day, another post by a different person shows him riding a couloir when a massive crack appears. In the caption, there is an interview with the following statement “I knew the pocket would go, but I was prepared for it and could outrun it” Again, there is only the same option here, don’t go. It’s sending the wrong message. Avalanches happen, mountains are dangerous and its good to see what one looks like through videos and experiences, my point is that we have to be careful what is written. Do we need to know that ‘he knew the pocket would slide’ ?
This got me thinking, these people experience situations like this regularly but does that mean they are becoming numb to it? For impressionable people, posts like this send a completely different message. It’s saying that as long as you have a plan then its fine to ride slopes that will slide which, in my opinion, is a dark part of the industry. If they want to put themselves in this kind of danger then that’s fine and its great to see limits being pushed, but chose your footage and words carefully. The idea behind the posts was probably innocent but it needs to be thought through, the effects of that small caption could be counterproductive and deemed as reckless. As I mentioned before, these are highly educated mountain people and they know what they are doing, I am not questioning that at all. What I am questioning is do we need to be seeing this content all the time? Maybe we do..?
I am naturally very cautious when doing any freeride, I think you need to show the mountain respect. You need to be able to have the strength to do a 2-hour hike and then turn back around if it doesn’t look safe or you don’t feel good. That’s something you should never lose, otherwise where do we draw the line? We will keep pushing and pushing until no one knows where the limit is anymore.
As skiers and snowboarders we live a life that is blessed, we find inspiration in the mountains but it doesn’t always need to be through taking risks and we definitely shouldn’t be defined by how far we can stretch the boundaries of safety. As someone who has lost a close friend to an avalanche, I can tell you that it is not worth it. This person taught me everything and inspired my love for Duvel. If you want to see the effect of this one particular accident then the BBC made a documentary on it….click on this link. It’s hard hitting, but worth a watch.
With social media we have to find a happy medium, its great to see a gnarly line being ripped or a huge cliff being stomped and its something that as a freeride snowboarder I strive to do myself to get that buzz, and I’ve taken risks that afterward, i have felt bad for doing.
Some of the best and most beautiful media posts I have seen are when nature and rider blend into one……..a snowboarder putting in a huge soulful toeside turn dragging their hand in the pristine snow is a thing of beauty and inspires me to strap in and go ride. The same as listening to Jeremy Jones and the outright respect he has for the mountains is reflected in his decision making.
This is not an attack on these people, it’s more to raise questions. Its great to educate people on what to do in bad situations but there are certain ways to do it, sometimes it feels like carrots are being dangled in front of peoples faces and tempting accidents. Freeriding and backcountry is a life-changing experience, but let’s keep it changing lives for the better.