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category: Sports & Recreation
published: Sep 2014
publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books


by Ken Wylie

tagged: mountaineering, adventurers & explorers, winter sports

On January 20, 2003, at 10:45 a.m., a massive avalanche released from Tumbledown Mountain in the Selkirk Range of British Columbia. Tonnes of snow carried 13 members of two guided backcountry skiing groups down the 37-degree incline of a run called La Traviata and buried them. After a frantic hour of digging by remaining group members, an unthinkable outcome became reality. Seven people were dead.

The tragedy made international news, splashing photos of the seven dead Canadian and US skiers on television screens and the pages of newspapers. The official analysis did not specifically note guide error as a contributing factor in the accident. This interpretation has been insufficient for some of the victims' families, the public and some members of the guiding community.

Why did the guiding team seemingly ignore a particularly troublesome snowpack? Why were two groups travelling so close together? Were the guides adhering to best practices for terrain selection and snow stability evaluation? What motivated them to go there?

Buried is the assistant guide's story. It renders an answerable truth about what happened by delving deep into the human factors that played into putting people in harm’s way. The story begins buried metres deep in snow, and through care-filled reflection emerges slowly like spring after a long winter, nurturing a hopeful, courageous dialogue for all who make journeys through the mountains of their life. The story illustrates the peace that comes from accountability and the growth that results from understanding.

About the Author

Ken Wylie operates “Mountains for Growth” Life and Leadership Development LLC, based in Blacksburg, Virginia. A certified guide with the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations, Ken has adventured with the best people and on some of the greatest climbs and ski descents in the world. His Adventure Education career spans 30 years and has included faculty positions at Mount Royal University and Thompson Rivers University and at Outward Bound Canada, where he was instrumental in developing a highly successful therapeutic adventure program for Canadian military veterans. Ken understands the educational purpose of adventure better than nearly anyone alive, by living through the high peaks and deep valleys of it and personally embracing its timeless lessons. Tempered by fire, he commands the art of facilitating educational growth and development through adventure. Ken and his wife, Karen, live on five acres just outside Blacksburg, Virginia.

Editorial Reviews

In this day of memoir by "victim", Buried is refreshing. Perhaps refreshing is the wrong word, but Ken’s book and unvarnished authentic approach is welcome. The arc of the story is not victimization, but of self-realization and personal growth. Of moving beyond. We all make mistakes. We must learn to live with them. That is the story in Buried.—Keith Liggett on Powder Canada

What makes Buried a worthwhile read is the insight into the need for backcountry enthusiasts and guides to speak up when they feel something is wrong with the situation they are in. Ken explores the human factor of the accident and how following others permeated his life.—Mountain Obsession

With the publication of Buried, Wylie takes a bold step to reverse course and share what he experienced, what he knew from the guiding perspective. In the process of telling his tale, he methaphorically digs himself out and frees himself from the bondage of being buried in life.—Earn Your Turns

Buried is an engaging and thought provoking look at an accident that shook the backcountry ski industry and a reflective story of Wylie’s internal struggle to regain self-identity. If anything positive can come from the story of the tragic day in January of 2003, it is to help other skiers see what could have been done differently, and that’s exactly what Wylie hopes Buried can do.Off-Piste Magazine

Buried was not an easy book to read. By the end of the first half I found myself emotionally incredibly raw, I didn't want to keep reading but I also couldn't put the book down. I was watching a car wreck, but it felt like my car wreck. The second half of the book you get a bit more distance from Ken, which to be honest, is a relief. But you also get hope, inspiration to look at your own past mistakes in the same unflinching manner and learn those lessons you didn't learn at the time. If Ken can do it, after being through so much, fuck, maybe so can I.—Phil Tomlinson, Canadian Spindrift

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