Avalanches are not things to be trifled with—they are emotionless killing machines things that will punish all those who do not respect a wall of ice travelling at 100 kilometres an hour.
Now, due to a lack of personal experience, I don’t know the appropriate demeanour one should have when going face to face with a snow demon but I’m relatively sure cheerfulness isn’t it.
But don’t tell that to a cheerful real-estate agent out for a jog—cause those folks will grin through damn near anything.
Case in point: Bryon Howard, a Calgary real estate agent who was out for a run around 5 p.m. December 6 when the mountain decided to come for him. In his Facebook post, Howard says the incident occurred when he was jogging in a majestic area near Lake Louise, Alberta. He was “up pretty high on the trail” near the town’s famous hotel when the snowslide came down and he “really didn’t feel the snow could ‘swallow’” him.
“Wow,” he says in the video, with the inflection of someone who just saw a large but not crazy-large bird. “Here it goes. I don’t think it’s coming this far."
As he hustles away you can see the snow filling in the world behind him. Coming for him. Hunting him.
In the end, the real estate agent ends up with just a light dusting of snow on him and a grin on his face.
Now, as I explained earlier, avalanches are scary as shit. Certainly not something you smile through. According to Avalanche Canada, an average of 11 in Canada typically die a year as a result of these forces of nature. Even experienced and well-prepared people can be taken, as was the case with three internationally known climbers were killed in the Rockies this spring.
To hammer the point home, I texted the closest thing I know to an expert (mountain man), my climbing friend Leroy, who lives near the Lake Louise peaks and has done lengthy winter safety training courses.
“They are death from above,” he told me. “Already had one friend almost buried this season.”
If you can’t trust my friend Leroy, who can you trust?
Maybe we should learn something from Howard’s smiling in the face of white doom. Take something away from his tango with snowy death.
Maybe when something out of your control comes your way with the crushing intensity of thousands of pounds of snow you should put a smile on your face and embrace the absurdity of life. Well, that AND run.
Best not to forget the running part.
This article has been updated to include up to date avalanche fatality statistics.
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