The fascination

There is no conversation like an avalanche conversation. It's life or death, glory or defeat, rescue or tragedy, human error or a blatant ignorance of the basics ... and it easily dominates any conversation in any ski town in any year.

But this year is different.

This is the year that has seen 13 US avalanche fatalities, mainly in the frontcountry. This is the year that batches of ski patrollers are getting buried. This is the year that the New York Times is putting slide coverage on the front page. This is the year that my mom is going to remember that I ski.

Usually, avalanches are a local story, a living history that begins with the first snowfall and continues with each soap opera-like installation of special guest star weather events, heroic consolidation and the literal cliffhanger of actual slide stories. Some years are dry and blissfully boring. Others are simply riveting.

In 2009, the avalanche story is a national one. Where did the big one hit last? Which of your wedding party was involved? And how, oh how, am I going to make the most of out of that Western swing in February?

LINK: One-click avalanche forecasts

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