After seeing all the media play that videos get of people (and rabbits) having close calls in avalanches, I’ve been searching for a way to get in on some of that viral action myself. POV beacon recoveries, avalung burials, airbagging… everything has already been done on YouTube, so an avalanche misadventure has to be really over-the-top to grab the attention of a jaded public.
My first thought was to combine everything, to outfit myself with every available safety device and then just tee off on big wind-loaded convexities with airbag activated and AvaLung mouthpiece pre-deployed until something exciting happens so all my gear can save me on video. But then I saw this viral avalanche-escape video footage.
Clearly the majestic chamois, the indigenous mountain goat of the Alps, is impervious to even quite substantial avalanches, so much so that watching them battle roaring plumes of debris appears to have become a spectator sport in France. Even through a crappy phone video one can almost smell the cigarette smoke and Gallic appreciation of the goats’ alpine élan as a metaphor for the human spirit crying out against the meaningless onslaught of the existential void.
It was only just now, here at the bar, that I was hit with the kind of revolutionary insight that can only come from several scotches in brisk succession: Why try to duplicate the survival abilities of the nimble mountain goat with crude devices when one could harness the natural avalanche resistance of the chamois itself? The only way these animals could be more perfectly adapted for modern backcountry skiing is if they came with a built-in GoPro.
So I propose flying to France to capture a healthy chamois and (after filing down the pointy bits a little), integrate the live goat into a highly technical ski-mountaineering backpack system. Voila: The world’s only all-organic, non-explosive personal avalanche escape device backpack, mobile autonomous POV camera platform, adorable friend, and delicious emergency food supply in one integrated unit. It might sound crazy, but this guy is already using one for urban bike commuting.
As a bonus, you get improved self-arrest capabilities (horns) and you can remote-test the snowpack by releasing the chamois, then tossing food down the line in question. Injured? Just flip the system goatside-down and ride your way back to safety. Not to mention the standard benefits, such as—if you get a female goat—creamy chamois chèvre. Rip the gnar and get all barreled in the deepest pow without a care, all while making a killing on artisanal goat cheese, and saving a bundle on lawn care!
Rip the gnar and get all barreled in the deepest pow without a care, all while making a killing on artisanal goat cheese, and saving a bundle on lawn care!
Now for the viral part: I’ll take my new integrated GoatPack 9000 Avalanche Safety System out in the field to wander about aimlessly on top of large cornice systems until something exciting “just happens.” After editing the resulting footage to some really pretentious music and uploading it, I’ll take out a full-page ad with headshots of me and the goat, both of us looking steely-eyed off into the middle distance, as if at a bergshrund, serac, or some other gnarly thing that we’re definitely not afraid of, captioned: “My GoatPack 9000 A.S.S. saved me from certain doom when a freak cornice collapsed out of nowhere.” —J. Local, Professional Progressive Big Mountain Backcountry Freeski Spine Specialist, Avalanche Expert, GoatPack Factory Team Rider
Riding a metaphorical avalanche of Likes and Retweets like an exuberant airbagger, I’ll sell the goat-based A.S.S. concept to K2 or someone and rake in the cash, with which I will purchase more ligaments for my knees and also new snow tires for the truck. Then, because there will now be enough traction to get out of the driveway, I will drive to the bar instead of taking the bus like a loser, where I will buy drinks for women while telling them about my heroic deeds in the backcountry: A lone man with nothing but a steely glint in his eyes and a confused French goat strapped to his back, just a man and his trusty goat against all the raging fury of The White Armageddon… until one of them believes me or I’m asked to see myself out.
Which, granted, is a pretty normal Tuesday night, but the Cute Goat Angle might help, and a weapons-grade bar tab never hurts when it comes to the kaleidoscopic carnival of furtive spasmodic fumbling that is Ski Town Romance.
Marquee photo: Working with chamois to harness the power of virility, er, virality. PHOTO: Patrik Lindqvist