When skiing steep and exposed terrain, a skier needs to be 100% focused. A small slip of a ski edge, a milli-second loss of attention or even a simple misjudgment in terrain or snow conditions, can have very serious consequences and even lead to injury. Distractions can definitely be hazardous to oneâ€™s health in the mountains.
Yesterday, I had plans to ski a steep and classic couloir in the Tetons. The sky was blue, the snow was soft (at least the stuff not getting lots of sun) and the day started off with a cold and early morning skin under the hue of alpenglow on the surrounding mountains. By all accounts, the day should have been stellar. But, it wasnâ€™t even close.
I should have known the night before that my head was in no condition to ski extreme terrain the following day. Unable to sleep, I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling until the late hours of the nightâ€¦thinking about the tragic loss of fellow Jacksonite, Ray Shriver, just hours earlier. My mind was a mess, and my thoughts buzzed back and forth with so many questions that need to be answered as well as deep sorrow for the family and friends that Ray left behind.
I know there are no answers to many of the questions I have. Yet, they still lurk inside my head and beg for somethingâ€¦anything. I also know it is important to get back on the horse during troubling times, as sitting around and being depressed is no way to honor a fallen heroâ€™s life. But, when your mind is not clear, what one needs is simple, predictable terrain and snow conditions, not high intensity couloirs and survival skiing with question marks after every turn.
Needless to say, plans to ski the steeps were aborted an hour-or-so from the trailhead, and the skin track proceeded to follow a track with no real destination. One ski in front of the other, one thought of Ray after another, as the sun and wind acted like is was just another day. The only objective was to stay away from any hint of snow-pack instability or sketchy terrain. Boring? Maybe. Healing? Definitely.
Good call Steve. The mountains have a way of allowing us to pay tribute to a friend and helping us heal during trouble times.
A winter day in the Tetons is never boring, especially when punctuated with a spell on a stool in Dornan’s. Have one for Ray.
I am sincerely sorry for this tragic loss to our community!
Good job folling your intuition Steve, no joke! This past July, I was due to leave my place at midnight for a sunrise ski downn a fairly-steep chute…I, for some reason, couldn’t get to sleep for the few hours preceeding midnight…my girlfriend said I was the weirdest she’d ever seen me and bad vibes the day before….well, my fourth turn ended up a fall for a solid 800 vert feet, ending in a six-week coma….. So, yeahman, be 100% focused, honor our mountainy brothers and sisters, and when it’s time to drop in, live to ski…and schralp it!
Good article as usual, but cannot agree on the “boring” part. Sure colouirs provide more adrenaline, but more mellow terrain often provides the skier with a flow that is hard to beat. Even watching ski movies the “flow skiing” tickles me more than Fred Syvertsen style jumps. (The video of his 107m jump actually shows what I think: the easy skiing before the jump looks divine in my eyes. )
Good words Steve. Sorry for your loss. I didnt know Ray very well but when I ran into him he always seemed like a great person.
Pulling the plug is never a bad choice. Live to ski.
Good choice Steve. Great words Christian. The mountains mean so much to us all in so many ways.I didn’t know Ray but I’d venture a guess it was the same for Him.
Amen, Steve. Sorry for your loss. Reflection while moving forward is a good move.
I think often in our culture grief is looked at as negative. Like it is something we are supposed to somehow cover up or get rid of. Instead I think it is better to lean into it, to breath it in, and experience every part of it. The reality of life is that as time goes on you either die or you grieve for the death of those you love and care about. Sadness is too big and important to not take the time to feel. With out it there would be no joy. So when you slow down and feel that sadness, that reality of death you are celebrating happiness and giving life the respect it deserves.
Good to see you out today.
Over the years the mountains and the ability to be in them have offered me a sense of solace, provided joy, and granted a greater sense of appreciation for life. It’s amazing how these special places can offer so much.
I agree with Drew…let’s take a moment to raise our glasses for Ray. Celebrate the joy that he brought into this world.