General Articles

The Sliver
By Robb Gaffney, M.D.

The air was still and stale when we woke up on the ground in Pine Creek Canyon in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The sky, which is usually a deep crystalline blue on these excursions, was a monotonous grey. The high clouds hung stationary and the air was humid and almost luke-warm, at least compared to what we were expecting.

After stuffing down some yogurt, bananas and a protein shake, we drank enough fluid...

Carolyn Hamilton with life unfolding
By Carolyn Hamilton

We live in a wild and precious place. “A geographical location that’s alive.” A spot on earth where the mountains call to us. 

And because we live here, we get to go! First we go. Then we take our children. And, inconceivably quickly, our kids answer that call on their own, without us. 

My first question, then, is this: when our children answer the mountains’...

Dick Dorworth and Jeannie Wall
By DIck Dorworth

Like many older people I find in recent years that I learn more from those younger than from my peers. I recently gained a new sliver of insight into the matter of risk tolerance from my youngest son, Jason, who lives in Santa Cruz, California and is an avid surfer. Several years ago I heard about Mavericks, the famous, big, dangerous wave an hour north of Santa Cruz. I asked Jason if he knew about and had been to...

Edie Thys-Morgan
By Edie Thys

The US Open came and went, giving us great tennis and excellent stories: Serena vs. everybody else; Serena vs. Venus; Federer vs Drop Shot; Serena vs. Serena; Italy vs. Italy; Djokovic vs. Federer. Every time I looked into the eyes of the players as they embarked on matches that would last for hours, it underscored how difficult it must be to manage their emotions for so long. Getting psyched up and holding it...

By Grant Alexander Gary and Blake Keogh

Can we keep the number of US avalanche deaths at four?

Pat yourselves on the back American backcountry skiers and riders.  It is February and the total number of avalanche fatalities currently stands at four, less than half of the 9 deaths we had at this time last year.  There are numerous possible explanations for why the numbers are lower.  First there is snowpack.  Anyone who has been on the ...

Kristoffer with Andrew McLean, Antarctica
By Kristoffer Erickson / Robb Gaffney, M.D.

Kristoffer Erickson is an American alpinist and ski mountaineer for The North Face, photographer, philanthropist and family man, who has climbed and skied mountains all over the world in the Himalayas, Antarctica, the Alps, and in the ranges across North America. Kristoffer was good friends with Hans Saari, a renowned American ski mountaineer, who passed away after falling down the Northeast entrance of the Gervasutti...

Molly Talbert
By Molly Talbert

Before my face even hit in the snow, I knew I’d really messed up my knee. On the toboggan ride down, an embarrassing moment caught by my cousin on his GoPro, I tried to not think about the pain and told myself it’d all be okay. A month after my fall while skiing in Utah, I know it will all be okay, but the road is long — it turns out, I basically ripped apart my knee (ACL, MCL and meniscus) and two weeks after my...

Robb Gaffney, Squaw Valley     Photo: Grant Kaye
By Robb Gaffney, M.D.

I founded Sportgevity because I realized, as many of us do, that our sports are increasingly intermingling with the laws of physics and probability and these laws are reminding us of who is in charge. 

As we create more and more sophisticated safety gear, we get drawn further and further into that zone where physics and probability show their teeth. It is becoming increasingly evident that in many cases the...

Grant Alexander
By Grant Alexander

I am killing people with Avalanches.  Am I telling them to ski avalanche prone slopes during a storm?  Am I failing to dig them out once they're buried or telling them to choose terrain where the consequence is death? No.  But I might as well be.  I might as well be killing people with avalanches because I am part of a culture that is killing people with avalanches.  I am part of a generation that worships...

Kevin Donoghue, founder of Fitnamics with a podium finish
By Kevin Donoghue, Professional OCR Athlete

A few nights ago, I sat in front of 9 to 10 TV producers in an undisclosed location, a place that I have never been. I was here because of my exploits as an athlete. But this meeting was their way to find out what kind of person I was and whether I was going to be good for the show. Being a good person wasn't necessarily a prerequisite.

The question that stuck in my mind was, “if there is anything in your life...

Tracy Anderson, M.D.
By Tracy Anderson, M.D.

On March 6, 2009 I responded to a call for help at the base of a massive avalanche on the steep NW aspect of Gladiator Ridge north of Ketchum, Idaho.  My party was heading back home when I noticed the slide from Mushroom Ridge, on the opposite side of Westerhome Gulch.   While it only ran 100-200m, it was easily 500m wide.  As we took this in, we heard a whistle indicating someone was in serious trouble. Unfortunately...

The crew transitioning above East Vail Chutes
By Sportgevity

Edwin LaMair is just like many of us. He started skiing at the ripe age of 3 years old and for the last 19 winters, he has focused all his energy on finding that ultimate run in the Colorado Rockies. Like any skiers who live in Englewood, a suburb on the east side of Denver, he knows 6th avenue like the back of his hand and he can drive the I-70 corridor with his eyes closed. Edwin and his brother have spent countless...

Amie Engerbreston.        Photo: Jeff Engerbretson
By Sportgevity

On December 9, 2013 pro skier Amie Engerbretson was shooting photos with another pro skier and photographer Adam Clark on a bluebird powder day at Alta, Utah. Everything was going their way—perfect snow conditions, ideal weather and light, a great crew of people. And then suddenly, all of that changed. The three of them decided to dip out of bounds to a popular backcountry spot called Grizzly Gulch, a zone Clark had...

Bruce Tremper, Director, Utah Avalanche Center
By Sportgevity

Talking with Utah Avalanche Center director Bruce Tremper about fostering avalanche victims and their voices. 


When an avalanche occurs and a skier or snowboarder is caught, buried, or even killed, there’s often this phenomenon afterward in which a large-scale group tends to shame and criticize the victims or survivors of the slide. It happens in online forums, social media, and in person, and the...

Figure 1, Cowboy Mountain, just outside of Stevens Pass ski area. The Tunnel Creek drainage is circled and labeled in red. (Image modified from Google Earth)
By Ben Kelley, Senior Thesis Quest University Canada


Every accident can be traced back to human error (Hess, 2012). This is especially true for outdoor pursuits. Even in instances where an “act of nature” occurred, the source of error can likely be traced back to a human decision (Hess, 2012). By thoroughly documenting, analyzing and learning from accidents, the dangers of future wilderness pursuits can be...

Riding free can be a heavy tradeoff
By Steve Grizwold, Retired ER Physician

I had an experience this weekend that may be of interest to those of you I worked with in the ER. It’s a bit of a long story but bear with me. 

Kathy and I were out for a weekend adventure and were crossing Beartooth Pass atop the Beartooth Plateau which straddles the Montana Wyoming border. We were coming down the Wyoming side when...
A proud triple pack
By Sportgevity

POWDER Magazine stepped across the grain when they published the December 2012 issue with a black cover boldly emblazoned with “WHY DO THE BEST SKIERS KEEP DYING?” Publishing this issue was no easy task for all those involved and taking this sort of risk certainly must have created serious angst. But it paid off! Editor John Stifter and the POWDER Magazine staff were honored with three MAGGIE Awards at a prestigious...

Jeremy Benson dropping in, Chamonix
By Jeremy Benson

On January 2nd, 2012 in Tahoe, any snow on the ground was manmade. With Squaw and Alpine combined, all we had were 4 groomed runs. It was a tough time for me because I’m someone who lives to ski and although we were in midwinter, the mountain biking was far better than the skiing. But I was trying to make the most of it. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, right? 

I figured skiing icy groomers could...

Sportgevity Kids
By Sportgevity

The Tahoe Junior Freeride Series made a difficult decision to cancel the second day of a 2 day event at Sugar Bowl ski area on Sunday January 27th due to adverse conditions. Some competitors and parents were relieved while others were let down. This served as a nice segue into Sportgevity’s presentation to the group later in the day, which addressed issues...

The team
By Sportgevity

Mother nature (with a little help) gifted the first Sportgevity Gettin' Ready kids avalanche clinic a classroom that we probably will not see again for many years. Just a week prior, Squaw Valley ski patrol took a 50 pound bomb, strapped it to a kiddie sled, and lowered it down onto the face of Granite Chief Peak, releasing a massive class 3 avalanche that peeled from a 6-7 foot crown and roared down the mountain at...

Tom Ryan

Sportgevity caught up with Tom Ryan who is the head coach for the Charlotte Copperheads of the North American Lacrosse League. He has also held several head coaching positions for other teams including the Boston Blazers of the National Lacrosse League, the 2007 U.S. Indoor Lacrosse Team for the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, and several women’s and men’s college teams. Prior to his...

Live in Tahoe? This is a must!
By Robb Gaffney, M.D.

Sportgevity is proud to be a part of Lel Tone’s Steep and Deep Free Avalanche Awareness Clinic this coming Saturday January 19th, 2013 at the Plaza Bar in Squaw Valley. Doors open at 6:30pm. There is no greater opportunity to come in contact with experts who really know their stuff with regard to avalanche science, awareness, and safety. Speakers will address a variety of issues, including the all important human...

Dave Nettle in Kyrgyzstan
By Robb Gaffney, M.D.

Dave Nettle is an American rock climber, alpinist and backcountry skier. Take this special opportunity and tap into Dave's wisdom, which has been decades in the making. 


I believe we are a product of our habits and that excellence is achieved not through single actions but repetition. For me it has made sense to develop slowly over the years as a climber and skier, enjoying the gradual...

Kids spying difficult terrain
By Holly Hazel McGowan

----written January 2012

My kids learned to ski in the late 1990’s.  Snowboarding was BIG.  We had to twist their arms and offer all sorts of deals to sign them up for ski team.  They could snowboard after they learned to ski was the deal we struck in a Monty Hall sort of way.  Door #1 was skiing, doors #2 & #3… who cared? We knew they’d be hooked once they got it.  


I don’t know...

Chris Hetherington
By Megan Michelson

What we can learn about playing it safe from retired NFL fullback Chris Hetherington.


Chris Hetherington retired from the NFL in 2006, after 11 seasons of playing professional football. He last played fullback for the San Francisco 49ers; before that, he played for the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams, the Carolina Panthers, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Cincinnati Bengals, where he was first...

By Megan Michelson

The lessons pro climber Tommy Caldwell learned from his dad and over 30 years of climbing rock. 


When he was a kid, Tommy Caldwell’s dad, who worked as a teacher during the school year and a mountain guide during the summer, would take his son on climbing missions around Colorado. Tommy did his first roped climb when he was just three years old. By age 14, he was climbing the 2,000-foot-high, 5.10...

They are going to be venturing
By Sportgevity

Sportgevity hosts an avalanche course for kids at Alpine Meadows this coming January 6th and February 3rd. The Gettin' Ready course was designed with prevention in mind. Our instructor, AIARE certified Rich Meyer, will acquaint kids with the single most powerful tool of an expert backcountry traveler - the love for a lifelong learning process. 


When: January 6th, 2012, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p...

By Megan Michelson

Tips on staying safe on the slopes from engineering professor Jasper Shealy, who’s been studying ski-related injuries for over 40 years.


Jasper Shealy, a professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology’s college of engineering, is 73 years old. He’s been skiing since 1963 and studying topics related to safety in skiing since 1970, when he was a graduate student at New York State University at...

I saw my first BASE jumper while hanging out 2000 feet up El Capitan on the unrelentingly steep ‘Dawn Wall’. After sunset, my partner and I were on our portaledges eating dinner. Suddenly, we were shocked to hear a freight train heading right at us. It was either that or a big falling rock was about to clean us off the wall and kill us. But as we looked up, we a saw not a freight train or a giant rock but a falling...

Avalanche Crown
By Megan Michelson

An interview with mountain guide Martin Volken about smart decision-making in the backcountry.

A few years ago, Martin Volken, a Swiss-trained mountain guide and sponsored athlete, was in Japan on a ski trip with his sponsor, K2. Their group was in the backcountry filming and due to a series of poor decisions, they released an avalanche. Thankfully, nobody was caught or hurt, but afterward, Volken was struck by...

Dave Kalama

I think my longevity comes from two things. One, truly loving and having a passion for my sport, and two the longing to always get better. I truly believe that even if I wasn't a sponsored athlete I would be doing almost the exact same thing because I enjoy it so much. Plus once you get proficient at something you get a lot of self satisfaction at being one of the best at your respective sport. Basically making your...

Tom Burt
Q. Have you ever had a partner or partners that have made you uncomfortable because their judgment seems off? Would you keep going out with them? Have you witnessed lapses in judgment taking out (off-ing) any of your friends?  
AI have been lucky with my choice of partners, but maybe that is part of my gut.  I don’t go out with people I do not trust.  Now I do guide and I have to take care of...
Ethan Ward Surfing
By Robb Gaffney, M.D.

Have you ever laughed when you saw an old picture of a hockey goalie playing without a helmet? What gives us that guttural chuckle? Humor often comes from things that are unexpected or in contrast to what we know of the world at one particular cross section of time. In 2012, seeing a hockey player without a helmet just doesn’t seem right. In contrast, in the 60s it did! People of that era often poked fun of those...