A scene that any parent would find almost too awful to imagine was an impossibly stark reality at Panorama Mountain Village last Thursday: a young skier, learning the skills and techniques that would allow her to enjoy the slopes for a lifetime, tragically skied out of control and crashed into the trees at a high speed.
By the time the rescue helicopter arrived, it was already too late. Despite the fact that she was wearing a helmet and skiing within view of her father, 12-year-old Rachel Deugau perished in an accident no one could have seen coming.
There’s no one to blame either: if anything, the resort deserves much praise for the degree to which they helped the poor girl’s family in their time of loss. It’s simply a case of extreme misfortune, ironically arising at a time when so many locals and valley visitors have felt blessed by the snow gods with a rare and continuing dump of snow, hardly the stuff we mortals are accustomed to. It’s a Purcells paradise right now, but with the shocking accident comes a reminder of how easily paradise can be lost.
Life is unpredictable: while we take care to safeguard against unneccesary risks, too often it’s the inoccuous incidents that blindside us. No one is ever prepared for something like this. As a community newspaper journalist for more than five years, I’ve seen many good people taken from us in the most unpredictable of situations, like car accidents or unexpected illnesses.
Looking at this valley tragedy through a longer lens shows that history has a weird way of repeating itself: as observed in our Remember When column this week, a skier was killed at the same resort almost 30 years ago to the day. Skier Robert Gilmour crashed into a tree on February 16th, 1984 and was rushed to the Invermere hospital with massive head injuries, before succumbing to the trauma at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, where he died the next day.
What can be done to prevent tragedy? Random misfortune is something we can never eliminate. Wearing stronger helmets or more body armour won’t eliminate the risks posed by life, whether one likes to dabble in extreme sports or play it a little more safely.
All we can do is live in the moment and enjoy life as best we can. What we have today can be gone in an instant tomorrow.
Fortunately, we live in one of the best places on the planet to achieve that goal. The Columbia Valley is a fabulous region to check in with yourself and realize that, yes, you are indeed alive.
If you don’t believe me, simply walk outside right now, scan your eyes across a mountain horizon and see the snow on the peaks. Take a deep breath and be thankful for the abundance around you.