by Susie Rainsberry
March 15, 2010
ItÔÇÖs been several days now since the tragic avalanche at Turbo Hill.┬á The latest reports are that two are deceased and three are still hospitalized. The media is also reporting that there were 200 snowmobilers at Turbo at the time of the slide.┬á The avalanche is reported to have been up to 150 meters wide and 10 meters deep.┬á That, my friends, is a BIG avalanche!
IÔÇÖd like to put some perspective on this ÔÇô a snowmobilerÔÇÖs perspective.┬á Apparently no one in the media is a snowmobiler or is concerned about taking the time to gather the facts ÔÇô not just the bad, but the good as well. And there is good to be heard in this story.┬á If you ask a snowmobiler ÔÇô theyÔÇÖd be able to tell you what that is. But either the media isnÔÇÖt asking, or has heard it and doesnÔÇÖt feel that the facts are newsworthy.
However, I feel these facts are the MOST newsworthy topic of this entire tragedy.
Saturday afternoon, following the close of the events for the annual Big Iron Shootout, a large group of snowmobilers headed to Turbo Bowl to make a run at the hill.┬á As the riders lined up at the bottom of the hill, the mass of spectators parked their sleds and prepared to enjoy the show.┬á As one of the sleds turned out towards the top, the hillside gave way.┬á Thundering down the mountain it came ÔÇô taking sleds and riders with it.┬á This powerful act of nature happens in a split second.┬á There is no time to react.
The time to react is as soon as it stops.┬á And react ÔÇô with speed and knowledge ÔÇô in the midst of chaos ÔÇô is what those sledders did. There were no typical first responders to this catastrophe in the immediate moments following the avalanche.┬á Only snowmobilers.┬á Those same snowmobilers that the media is painting with a broad stroke as crazy, ignorant, thrill seekers.
As a back country snowmobiler myself, I can tell you that ignorant is not a word that I would use to describe those survivors.┬á I would call them heroes!┬á And justly so.┬á In the midst of what may have been the most terrifying minutes of their lives, they turned their avalanche beacons to search, they got out their probes and their shovels and they started rescue protocols IMMEDIATELY ÔÇô likely while in a state of shock. ┬áThey dug out those that were buried, they triaged the injured, they administered first aid, they built fires to keep them warm until the helicopters arrived. ┬áThese people were heroic!! Without their quick and educated responses, many more people would have died.
I am angered that the media is so eager to report this story that they are being so disgraceful to the victims and survivors.┬á These people need support and compassion.┬á They do not need to be stereotyped and degraded in the media or by anyone else.┬á Shame on you!!┬á DidnÔÇÖt your mother teach you better manners than that?
IÔÇÖm not done though ÔÇô there is way more information about snowmobilers in respect to the Big Iron Shootout and Revelstoke that the media hasnÔÇÖt covered yet.┬á While they gleefully report that this is an unsanctioned (IÔÇÖll get to that in a moment) event drew 200 sledders (despite the grave warnings from the avalanche center), what they arenÔÇÖt telling you is that there are likely double that number of snowmobilers who DIDNÔÇÖT attend this yearÔÇÖs event ÔÇô because of the conditions.┬á Snowmobilers who DID heed the warnings.
As I was reading the snowmobiling forums and Facebook on Saturday evening, the same story continued to repeat itself ÔÇô people concerned about friends who generally attend the BIS, those friends checking in and saying they didnÔÇÖt go this year, or they were in the area but avoided Turbo Bowl because of the warnings and the conditions they were already aware of. You see, back country snowmobilers are often in the back country two or more days a week and already have first hand insight to the conditions.
Regarding the word being used in almost every story ÔÇô unsanctioned.┬á It is true that there is no sanctioning organization for this event.┬á Not the town of Revelstoke nor the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club.┬á However, just because itÔÇÖs not sanctioned does not mean that it is illegal. Snowmobilers often gather in large groups to ride with friends who are generally dispersed all over Canada and the United States. I personally rode with a group of 30 riders at an ÔÇ£unsanctionedÔÇØ event in Wyoming.┬á Oops!┬á I also rode at another ÔÇ£unsanctionedÔÇØ event, ummm, better make that two, here in Oregon.┬á Rest assured, I am not a criminal nor are any of the snowmobilers that I know.
The internet keeps the snowmobiling community connected.┬á There are thousands of unsanctioned events that simply start by someone saying, ÔÇ£hey ÔÇô who wants to ride this weekend?ÔÇØ┬á Next thing ya know, word spreads about how much fun everyone had and it snowballs from there (pun intended).┬á They grow into these annual eventsÔÇªÔÇØsame date next year?ÔÇØ
So, hereÔÇÖs what happens next ÔÇô the date is set.┬á Motel rooms are reserved.┬á Trucks and sleds are fueled.┬á Vacation time is requested.┬á Then individuals, families and social groups all head into a remote mountain town.┬á They buy. They buy.┬á They buy a lot!!┬á They spend money ÔÇô because they can.
It is with great sadness that I have to dispel the myth that mountain snowmobilers are a bunch of rednecks.┬á All you really need to do is add up the costs to outfit an individual ÔÇô much less an entire family ÔÇô with a sled and the proper safety gear.┬á Since this article is really targeted at those individuals who are not mountain sledders, I will point out that everything ÔÇô got that?ÔÇªEVERYTHING, on your person and on your sled is part and parcel of your survival gear.┬á From your gloves, to your coat, to the sunglasses in your backpack.┬á Trying to save a dime in buying a coat is really not advised, when that coat may be the only thing protecting you from the elements if you have to stay overnight.┬á With all that said, hereÔÇÖs a rundown of estimated costs of the primary accessories needed to sled in the back country;
ÔÇó Sled $6,000-$14,000 USD
ÔÇó Clothes (including base, mid and outer layers ÔÇô top & bottom) $800-$1,200 USD
ÔÇó Boots/gloves/helmet $245-$800 USD
ÔÇó Backpack (non-avy) $60-$120 USD
ÔÇó Backpack (avy) $1,000-$1,200 USD
ÔÇó Body armor (tek vest, knee pads, etc) $60-$300 USD
ÔÇó Beacon, probe, shovel $250-$400 USD
This doesnÔÇÖt include a lot of items, such as matches, radios, compass, fire starter, flashlight, and the list goes on, and the costs add up.┬á It would be GREATLY appreciated if the media would STOP perpetuating the myths that sledders are ignorant, beer-swilling, couch potatoes. Because itÔÇÖs simply not true.
The fact is that mountain sledders do not fit a stereotypical mold.┬á They come from all areas of the business worldÔÇªfrom CEOs to millworkers.┬á They have families and they are single.┬á They are old and they are young.┬á They are world-class athletes and they are physically handicapped.┬á They survive corporate down-sizing, cancer, divorces, etcÔÇª.just like everyone else.
The thing that binds us together is our great love for the back country in the winter.┬á We are modern day adventurers.┬á We want to get out there ÔÇô in the mountains.┬á We want to explore and play and wonder at the beauty.┬á We love the snow!┬á When it covers the trees, when it flies up in our faces, when it gives us a playground of vast proportions.┬á That is when we are in heaven.┬á That is when our souls glow.┬á We are not anything that the media will have tried to make us out to be in the last couple of days.┬á We are so much more.┬á ItÔÇÖs truly a pity that the media isnÔÇÖt interested in shining any light on the truth.
The truth is – the Turbo Bowl avy survivors are HEROES.┬á We in the snowmobiling communities ÔÇô far and wide ÔÇô are praying for the full recovery of those injured, in body and in spirit.┬á And finally, with great compassion and sympathy we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who perished.
I wrote this and I am Susie Rainsberry, Oregon resident, back-country snowmobiler.┬á I provide free and complete liberty for others to share and disperse this message.┬á The time has come to stop the slandering of good individuals just because they ride snowmobiles.