Lucky to be alive

After reading about the frightening events that took place recently in Whistler, I am reminded of the exact same chilling tale I lived on Boxing Day, five years ago. I still have nightmares of when I had to watch my brother, Chris, fall helplessly down the same 160 foot cliff, and by some miracle, live to tell about it.

It was a horrible day on the mountain, as it had rained all week, and the hill was like cement. We decided to drop into a bowl I had skied a few years previous, in the hope of finding good snow. We too saw the exact same signs, ducked the same aircraft cable, and looked down the same slope, which rolls over into a steep, 60-plus degree pitch. Chris said that we should turn back, for the whole ridge line had been ripped off from a recent slide, leaving a small, five-foot bomb shelf below were we stood. I decided we should drop in and we would traverse out.

I pushed off the ledge, and as I landed, my skis kicked out from under me, and I immediately began sliding down the mountain, unable to stop. I desperately stabbed my poles into the slope as I rocketed down about 200-metres, with a massive cliff rushing up at me. I reached out for a smaller rock patch to scrape my fingers along it, and it was just enough to slow me down before I could slam my 201s between two rocks, stopping myself right on the edge. Chris wasn't as lucky. I heard my walkie talkie squawking, as my brother could not see me, but reaching for my pocket was making my skis slide closer to the edge.

Over my shoulder I heard muffled screaming and scraping sounds. I looked back only to see Chris sliding on his butt, with his board flipping back and forth on the steep decent. I screamed "Chris!" as I watched him shoot off the edge and into oblivion. He flew way out, about 60 to 70 feet, and then came crashing down onto the rock. The impact shattered every plastic part he had on.

I watched him tumble down the jagged face as pieces of snowboard, goggles, bindings, helmet and buckles came flying off him. He fell over 160 feet, landing on exposed rock. I could not see him from where I was, but I heard the screams of pain, and then he went silent.

Either he was dead, or knocked out. In the distance, I saw ski patrol on the adjacent ridge, heading our way with a toboggan, so I figured they had seen us. At least someone could get to him right away. My whole body was going into shock.

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