Avalanches: ‘Tis the Season to Get Stabbed

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and everyone buggers off somewhere steep and slides down it with planks on their feet. The perfect excuse for not “going to your mothers”. The chance to see if the hundreds of pounds of new gear, complete with in-built radio beacon and MP3 player, actually does mean you fall down less, like you promised the disbelieving wife it would.

The biggest danger associated with skiing is not falling down and breaking your leg, or mowing down a line of beginners, or being decapitated by a snowboarder (“Dude, like, sorry.”), or being made to look stupid by a midget kid wearing a ridculous hat going twice as fast as you. No, it’s avalanches.

The risk of avalanches is heightened every year by the expanding ubiquity of the portable media player. If you don’t turn the volume down before you remove your headphones to berate a dread-locked boarder, the “uhn-tiss uhn-tiss” or irish-boy-band-ballad-power-chord will have the mountain down around your ears.

The thing that worries me is the way they go about finding people after avalanches; more specifically, the people without radio beacons in their coats. They get a big line of people with metal poles and then mooch about the hillside in big lines stabbing the ground. It’s sort of like grouse shooting, if you take away the guns and give them sticks and lots of drugs instead.

Evidently they can tell the difference between stabbing snow and stabbing people, because they then dig ’em up, fill ’em with whatever they do fill ’em with and it’s home in time for egg-nog and misteltoe.

I do wonder why they don’t kill more people in the process. Or maybe they do. Think about it this way. You’re trudging up a hillside, thrusting this metal spike into the snow, not paying much attention and then the next thrust encounters some initial resistance, but then continues as normal. The chances are that you’ve just stabbed some unlucky punter in the face / chest / groin. What is to stop them just carrying on, then going back down and saying “We never found anyone.”? Nothing, right? People will get up in the morning, look at the mountain and say to their friends “Does that bit of snow look pink to you?”

You could develop a jacket with the equivalent to the reactive armour you get on tanks. If a tank with this armour is hit, explosive charges on the outside explode, cancelling the force of the incoming projectile. I think we’d all pay to see that; a line of sullen Frenchies stabbing the ground, praying fervently that they get to stab someone, only for three of four of them to be violently exploded into the air in a cloud of snow. The would-be-rescuee would then step smiling from the crater and point, laughing down the mountain.

So, the moral is, buy a coat with a radio thingy in it. Your chances of being stabbed in the chest by a Frenchman then drop to the levels encountered by aristos in the only war in which the French really tried1.

1 This has gone a bit anti-French, but as soon as I got into the French Civil War, I was overcome by Blackadder-isms.

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