Risk in avalanche terrain. What’s it worth to you?

I recently watched this interview with Utah Avalanche Center’s Bruce Tremper. In it he talks about risk in avalanche terrain. About half way into it something he said stuck with me. Paraphrased, “There are three types of people in the backcountry; those who don’t know they are at risk, those who know and go and anyway and then there are the people how go because there IS risk.”

Kordell Black and Cindi Lou Grant isolate a column of snow in the Wasatch backcountry.
Kordell Black and Cindi Lou Grant isolate a column of snow in the Wasatch backcountry.

Reflecting on time spent in the mountains it’s fair to say I have fallen into all three categories at one time or another. I shudder at the memories of a teenager rambling through the mountains completely ignorant of the dangers. Through my twenties I was trying to prove something and made terrible choices. (What was I trying to prove? I am not sure, but for some reason it felt like time was limited and the need to catch up was great.)

Cindi Lou Grant performs a compression test on a column of snow.
Cindi Lou Grant performs a compression test on a column of snow.

Another note from the interview that hit home was the possibility of having a lifetime in the sport. I like this. Numerous close calls and the accumulation of time in the hills have begun to change the way I approach avalanche terrain. Education, choosing the right partners, patience and having a willingness to walk away have all become part of the process. Don’t get me wrong; I still have my eye on steeper lines it’s just now I am more willing to wait for better conditions. Hopefully this will lead to a long and rewarding outdoor life.

After digging two separate snow pits and evaluating the layers, conducting a stability test and having a frank discussion with his partners Kordell Black boots up a 36 degree couloir in the Wasatch backcountry.
After digging two separate snow pits and evaluating the layers, conducting a stability test and having a frank discussion with his partners Kordell Black boots up a 36 degree couloir in the Wasatch backcountry. Following a one at a time protocol I headed up first stopping below a cleft in the cliff then Kordell followed and continued to the top.
The reward. Cindi Lou rides out of the couloir.
The reward. Cindi Lou rides out of the couloir.