Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: Could be any of our kids
Vail, CO, Colorado
I spent a good part of Sunday in bed, wracked with a headache from the sinus infection I’ve been battling off and on for two weeks. Still achy and a bit fuzzy on Monday morning, I arrived at work a little crabby, feeling sorry for myself. That all changed in an instant.
A colleague stopped me and asked, “Did you know the boy that was killed in the avalanche?”
I sort of shook my head and said, “What? What are you talking about?”
“A 13-year-old boy died in an avalanche in Vail yesterday,” she informed me.
My heart dropped and adrenaline shot through me. I have a 13-year-old boy. I know many 13-year-old boys and their parents in this valley. This can’t have happened. But it did.
I grabbed a Vail Daily and read the story. Tears fell as I scanned the account and saw the name. While I never met Taft Conlin, I have known his father for years. I know some of the families of the kids who survived the avalanche. I can’t even imagine what they are all going through right now. I’m so sorry that anyone has to endure this tragedy. My heart is breaking for Taft’s family and friends.
I know I’m not the only parent in this valley who immediately thought of their own kids, how it’s quite likely that they could find themselves in that very same scenario. I’ve been haunted by the realization that this could just as easily have been my son.
We live in a ski community where kids often have boards strapped to their feet not long after they start walking. Skiing or snowboarding is second nature to most of our kids. They have conquered the mountain by the time they hit double digits. At 13, they are looking for a bigger challenge, more of a thrill than the short tree run or the double black diamond trails.
My boys think of Beaver Creek as their neighborhood park. And until this week, I felt like it was, too. The fact that this avalanche was triggered in-bounds really struck fear into my heart.
As a parent, I do my best to impart the skier’s code to my boys, to insist they follow the rules, exercise caution, use good judgment. But I know that they don’t 100 percent of the time. They are boys. And worse yet, The Teenager is usually leading 11-year-old Small Boyne around the mountain, who will go anywhere and try anything his brother does.
I have no idea what happened on the mountain Sunday. I’m not judging the boys at all. They were kids out having fun on the slopes, enjoying the fresh snow from the overnight storm, doing something they loved. This was just a horrible, unfortunate tragedy.
This accident made one thing abundantly clear to me. We need avalanche training for our kids. Not just for the expert skiers but for anyone who may be on the mountain, out snowshoeing or Nordic skiing or even taking a walk through the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. In fact, we all should be trained. We all need to know how to spot potentially dangerous conditions and what do to if we get caught in a slide.
Can the school incorporate it into their science or P.E. curriculums? Can one of the many ski days our kids enjoy become an avalanche-education session? Can one of our community organizations offer classes specifically designed for kids, particularly the hard-to-reach teenage segment of our society, who think themselves invincible?
We need to do something proactive in the hopes that nothing like this happens in our community again.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through email@example.com
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