27 SNOW KIDDING, SHE SURVIVED
My blogging friend, lifelessons, wrote a great poem yesterday about being buried by an avalanche and keeping warm by thinking of her past loves.
Someone I love was really buried in an avalanche, in Alaska. I’m not sure what she was thinking about.
I was sitting over breakfast one Saturday morning, reading the Albuquerque Journal. That’s in New Mexico, if you don’t know. And my eye caught the headline “Skier survives avalanche in Alaska.”
My sister has lived in Fairbanks, AK, since 1957 – before it was a state, even. And she skis. So of course I read the short item.
The name of the skier jumped out at me and I ran to show it to my husband. As usual, he just glanced at the headline and said “She was lucky.”
“Look who it is!” I nearly shouted. “It’s Mary Ann.”
I immediately phoned and left a message hoping she was ok. One of 14 she found waiting for her, having thought she would be the one to share her unnerving experience with us first.
MA had been skiing with friends who were stronger skiers and had gone ahead of her down the run at Aleyska, leaving her to follow at her own pace. Suddenly two snowboarders came dashing by her shouting “Avalanche, avalanche” and she looked back to see it bearing down on her.
I’m not a skier but I can imagine the terror as she tried to outrun the snowpack.
At the last moment it turned and went down another run, but six feet of snow slid over my sister. How she had the sense to put up her ski pole, I don’t know. But she did. It protected her face, but there she was buried and unable to move.
The snowboarders realized the avalanche had turned but MA hadn’t appeared. And they, bless them, went back up, found her and dug her out. Any anti-feelings I had about snowboards on ski runs were banished from then on.
Down at the bottom, MA’s skiing partner was wondering where she was. Nobody was aware an avalanche had occurred; the cannons had been set off that morning as usual, intended to move any loose snow before the skiers arrived.
There was also an Associated Press reporter there that morning, and he took MA back up on a snowmobile to the scene of her interment – “Going back there,” she told me afterwards “was the worst part.”
So that’s how the word got to me in Albuquerque the next morning. And around the world with AP.
“And” said MA, with regret, “now everybody knows how old I am.”
And she still went skiing after that.