The Mishap At Mammoth

My inbox and voice mail are filling up with questions/concerns re the tragic accident at Mammoth Mountain today.

With 79" of new snow, the ski patrol had to do a great deal of maintenance work to make the hill safe for skiing.  In clearing up the Face of 3, a group of ski patrollers went to adjust a fence around a volcano vent on the far side of the slope.  The ground collapsed and they were trapped and the latest report is three people died.  It is not clear whether the fall killed them or the lack of oxygen or the volcanic gases.

It was very strange.  One started to hear whispering.  And then the upper lifts were running but they wouldn’t let anybody board.  And then they stopped the upper lifts completely.

Different stories were circulated.  One, that the snow just collapsed.  Two, that by covering up the vent previously, the gases found a new exit and a larger area was rendered unstable.

First report was that skiers had died in an avalanche.  Then, that skiers had fallen into a tree well.  There wasn’t pandemonium on the mountain, but a weird air.  Usually deaths on the hill are a result of skier error.  This just seems to be the world working in mysterious ways, as these were the most experienced people on the hill.

At the end of the day I asked a group of ski patrolmen what had happened.  They said there was an accident.  When I inquired further, they said they’d "lost some friends today".  I skied off.  One caught the funereal air.

Skiing is a dangerous sport.  But there’s risk as soon as you walk out the front door.  No one wants their story to end.  But if they’re like the other patrolmen I’ve known, those no longer with us loved working on the hill.

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