Medical Center emer-
gency doc had grown up in Boulder,
skiing and hiking Vail and Summit
County’s mountains. He loves his
work in Vail’s ER for the past 15
years, due to the overall environ-
ment both in and outside of work.
However, one “minor” frustration nagged at him: Work
kept him so busy, he didn’t have enough time to ski.
Granted, he managed to squeeze in 40-50 days a season,
but those “days” only consisted of an hour or so of pre-
cious turns eked in before his shifts began. “Summer
would come, and I wasn’t done skiing,” Kamper says.
His frustration reached a critical point in January 2009,
when he spent eight weeks recovering from shoulder
surgery. “I couldn’t do anything,” he says. “It drove me
nuts … (but) I had a lot of time to think about things.”
By the end of the eight weeks, not only had his shoul-
der healed, but also his one frustration with work and
recreation transformed. “I turned it around to a posi-
tive,” he says. “I realized the ski mountaineering season
begins when the lifts close, and the snow is more safe
and stable, and I have more time. I’d grown up doing
high-altitude backcountry skiing, and I realized I should
have been doing it all along. I decided to take on 14ers
as a project because it had a defined, prescribed list.”
Learn to recognize avalanche terrain. Most
avalanches travel in paths, on smooth, broad,
steep exposed slopes of between 25 and 60
degrees, but there are many exceptions.
Remember: If you can ride through it,
an avalanche can slide through it.
Practice searching for your
companions’ avalanche transceivers
until everyone feels confident
about their ability to locate
each beacon quickly.
Research your route and
snow conditions in the exact
location(s) you plan to ski. Call
your local avalanche warning
center and check the current and
forecasted weather before heading
into the backcountry. Be prepared to
adjust plans and/or routes accordingly.
Your attitude and the attitude of your
companions can often mean the difference
between a safe trip and catastrophe.
BEFORE YOU GO…
TAKE AN AVALANCHE SAFETY COURSE