Sunday 25 January 2009

Timely Nonfiction

Finished January 23
Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches by Jill Fredston
I received this for Christmas in 2007 but hadn't yet got around to reading it. With the multitude of avalanches in the news this year, I thought it was timely.
Jill Fredston and her husband Doug Fesler codirect the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. They have made their careers on avalanche education and avalanche rescue. Using real world stories, Fredston makes the power of avalanches come alive. I was especially taken by her discussions around those who have been killed and injured by avalanches. Most were experienced backcountry users, some of whom who had taken classes on avoiding such situations. The danger is due to human nature. Part of it is around familiarity breeds, if not contempt, at least decreased vigilance. Because the victims were familiar with the terrain and enjoying the experience they disregarded warning signs. The other bit of human nature is peer pressure. If the others in your group say things are fine, you tend to go along. Fredston also talks about how the increased power of snowmobiles is now bringing less experienced uses into dangerous situations.
Throughout, she acknowledges that we all make mistakes and it is something we must constantly guard against. Her attitude is realistic and offers fascinating information. I thoroughly enjoyed it as well as learning a lot.

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