Within the Crystal Mountain Ski Area in the Cascade Mountain Range of Washington State is an avalanche chute named after a real life incident.
Back in the day, the early 1970′s, while placing explosive charges on the starting zone of avalanche chutes control personnel commonly wore an avalanche cord. An avalanche cord was a forty foot piece of brightly colored nylon parachute cord tied around the skiers waist and allowed to trail along behind. The idea being that if a worker was caught in a avalanche a portion of the colored cord would remain unburied and lead a rescuer to the buried victim. The explosives used for this kind of work was typically sticks of TNT or a closely related product. The sticks, usually two to four, were taped together with electrical tape. When the avalanche control worker arrived at the starting zone of an avalanche chute he would insert a blasting cap and fuse into the explosive bundle. Next, he would attach a pull-wire ignitor to the fuse. When pulled this device would ignite the fuse leading to the blasting cap. The fuses were cut to allow about one and one half minutes before igniting the blasting cap to allow the skier to reach a safe vantage point. Most of the time an underhanded lob would be employed to place the charge out onto the slope to be blasted. This method allowed for the most accurate placement of the charge.
I was in my first season of being involved with this kind of work and was therefore very much a greenhorn. One very stormy January morning I accompanied a team out on skis to do hand control on a portion of the ski area. The resort was not yet open for the day to the public. My immediate supervisor was named Weaver. He was not very popular as he tended to be officious and pompous so the ski patrol guys only tolerated him. We each carried about thirty pounds of explosives and took turns in order to lighten our loads as we advanced through the control route. We arrived at this one chute and it was Weaver’s turn to throw a bomb. So he fixed the blasting cap, pulled the ignitor and checked to make sure the fuse was burning and lobed the charge.
However, as he advanced the charge forward in an underhand lob his avalanche cord slipped in between the sticks of taped TNT. What was a moment before just a useful tool to get some work done was now a very unwanted hitchhiker. In an unadulterated panic he turned and began to ski away only to have this smoking bomb bouncing merrily along right at the tails of his skis. No matter how hard he poled along he was unable to outrun his companion. For a minute and a half the world stood still. Well, by the time the charge detonated he had disappeared into some Alpine Fir trees. We heard what seemed an abnormally loud explosion to our alarmed ears and saw a plume of snow shoot skyward. We rushed over to find him standing unharmed next to a blackened hole in the snow. The charge had managed to slip to the very end of his avalanche cord before detonating.
Until this moment we, witnesses, had been over-taken with the event unfolding before our eyes, now realized this was not a drama but a macabre comedy. Due to enormous relief or an instantaneous appreciation of the inherent humor of this event we laughed so hard we were unable to stand. Weaver alone was unable to find the humor in his harrowing escape.
The avalanche chute that was supposed to be the recipient of Weaver’s bomb was immediately renamed Weaver’s Folly and remains so to this day.
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