Whistler trail

When experts form a group, there can be a reluctance for individuals to openly voice concerns about decisions. Sometimes with tragic consequences. 


There’s a beautifully designed story published by the New York Times – Snowfall. It’s getting a lot of credits for re-imagining how to present digital stories and, as a side note, there’s a great short post showing what the story would have looked like visually if it had been published as a traditional newspaper article. Links all at the end of the post.

But there’s an interesting and tragic element to the story. When experts form a group, there can be a reluctance for individuals to openly voice concerns about decisions. Sometimes with tragic consequences.

A group of 16 expert skiers and snowboards were beginning the descent towards Tunnel Creek of the Cascade mountains in Washington state. The following are a few soundbites from the story:

“If it was up to me, I would never have gone backcountry skiing with 12 people. That’s just way too many [but] I didn’t want to be the one to say, you know, ‘Hey, this is too big a group and we shouldn’t be doing this.’”

“The whole thing felt rushed to me, and it felt kind of like this covert operation. Which it kind of was, because you’re going out of bounds. It’s obviously acceptable, especially when you’re going out there with all these locals and the marketing director [of the resort].”

“There’s no way this entire group can make a decision that isn’t smart. [I told myself.] Of course it’s fine, if we’re all going. It’s got to be fine.”

“They’re all so professional and intelligent and driven and powerful and riding with athletic prowess, yet everything in my mind was going off, wanting to tell them to stop.”

Of the choice to ski straight down further: “When you know an avalanche is not very likely, that’s a great way to go. It’s three open glades of awesome powder.”

But that morning, the snow report had been that there was a considerable to high risk of avalanches in the area. And the risk was amplified by the size of the group. Within 30 minutes, three of them were dead.

References


Featured image: author’s photo – Whistler trail. 

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