Avalanche survivors share their story in the hopes of saving lives 

Risk of avalanche stays high in Sea to Sky country

click to flip through (5) PHOTO BY LEE LAU - Richard and Phil look towards Fissile from Oboe.

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"You can be very close to the line for a long time without ever knowing," said Haegli.

"That can create a lot of confidence in your ability to make decisions, even though you might have been very close to an accident for a lot of your backcountry career."

Lau had never seen a slide on the face that caught him and by investigating after the incident he found out anecdotally that the slope had indeed slid once before several years prior. Out of the six heuristic traps documented by McCammon, the biggest one that hit home that day was familiarity. Fissile is quite close to home for Whistler locals, and experienced skiers like Lau know every single line on every single face. The expert halo may have had a small effect, but all decisions were made as a group and Lau did have the skills and experience to lead the group safely. There were no other people in the area to show off to, there was plenty of powder for this group to enjoy on their own and decisions did not follow the path of least resistance.


If anything positive can be taken away from this incident it's that close calls need to be wake up calls. Walking away from an avalanche alive is a blessing, and not one to be taken lightly. Lau, who still aims to ski 100 days a year, reads his blog notes on this incident several times a season because he believes he shouldn't need to be reminded by his friends or family about the mistakes he has made in the past. Rather than keeping his story quiet in fear of judgement, Lau has told as many people as possible so they may learn from his mistakes and not suffer the same consequences of complacency in the backcountry.

"To defeat complacency it doesn't hurt to remind yourself of mistakes you've made or mistakes made by others."


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