Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek (nytimes.com)
525 points by tysone on Dec 20, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 137 comments

I'm an avoid back country snowboarder (split boarder) in the Canadian Rockies, and now further north into Coastal Alaska and I've spent many seasons as ski patrol, and taken numerous Avalanche training courses.

After my first 4 day course, the message was very clear:

"You are now the least knowledgeable people that should be in the back country".

I kept thinking "I know just enough to know I know nothing".

Reading this article it was very hard not to angry. Severe lack of training and practice caused deaths.

* 16 people is a huge no-no.

* The fact that someone in the group (a Liftie!) didn't even have a beacon should be a HUGE warning sign.

* Hitting the slope at 11:45 seems wrong to me - the day had warmed by then allowing the snow to consolidate.

* No clear route identification or plan

* The didn't dig a snow pit to assess avalanche conditions on the slope they were about to hit - my personal number 1

* Multiple people dropped in at once - the biggest no-no of all!

* They saw evidence of big slides on the way down, but kept going anyway!

* Waiting for those above by just standing around waiting in the potential slide path.

* Calling 911 immediately shows a lack of experience and understanding. Those buried have ~13 minutes before their chances of survival drop to essentially zero - help is not coming to save them. YOU MUST SAVE THEM.

* Calling 911 to report a body is a freaking waste of time and could cost others' buried their lives. KEEP SEARCHING AND DIGGING!

I hate to say it: They were asking for it, and a lot of them knew better.

Please, please, please, never go into the back country without training. Even a weekend course will be great. Don't let your friends or those more experienced than you convince you it's not needed - anyone that says that is not worth going with, because you are risking your life with people that don't know what they're talking about.

EDIT: If you want the first-person avalanche experience, watch this video. I go snowboarding here all the time. Turn the sound way up to really feel it. This person was saved by well trained back country ski partners. http://vimeo.com/6581009

Many people, especially those who have acquired substantial skiing proficiency in a setting that is superficially similar to the backcountry (i.e. maintained and patrolled ski areas) do not truly appreciate the risks of backcountry travel in the mountains.

We have become used to the concept that no matter what, help is just a phone call away. The mountains are a force of nature that we as backcountry users must have the most profound respect for. Conditions can change on a dime, and even the most skilled and resourceful SAR technicians may not be able to reach you for days. Some areas, like Canada's Rocky Mountain Parks, are blessed with numerous highly trained and fearless professional SAR personnel. Most are not. In rapidly changing mountain weather, any trip can become an overnight trip, perhaps in the harshest of conditions.

Mistakes happen. Even the best among us have been killed in freak accidents that could not have been anticipated or mitigated (I am reminded of this tragic and unpreventable incident this summer: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/progs/np-pn/sp-ps/sec7/08-2012.aspx#...). But tragically, it is often the so-called "second mistake" that kills - the failure to take appropriate actions when things started to go wrong, or worse, the failure to appropriately assess situational risks.

For many feats of ski touring or mountaineering, less than 10% of days in a given season may be suitable for a successful attempt. More likely than not, today is not the day. Know when to turn back, and understand that help will come when it can, not when you need it.

Easy access to a high-risk environment is a significant element of this story. Two lift trips to an expert ski area run is a low barrier, several hours of hiking/showshoeing to a backcountry run is a much higher barrier.

When only two lift trips and a warning sign are the barrier to a backcountry run, we should not be surprised that people who might be reluctant to spend several hours working hard to get to the top of a risky run choose to accept a risk that they might not fully understand.

In several places like the top of 9990 at the canyons they have "You Will Die" signs http://parkcity.tv/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Dutch-Draw-1-1.... Jackson Hole's Sign: http://gallery.uberu.com/main.php?g2_itemId=4180&g2_imag.... If you can't understand what these signs say, I don't know what other help you can get. Usually there are lots of other scary "Experts Only" signs on the lifts that get you to these points. They scare the cr*p outta me and I've been boarding for 18 years. Also, as the article says, it's national forest on the other side of those rope lines. It's not illegal in many places to cross.

It's possible, but it could also work the other way around.

There may be significant pressure to "Go" if it takes a while to get to the destination, and you have misgivings only at the destination. I.e. sunk-cost fallacy -- we hiked for days to get here, and it looks a bit iffy, but we're not turning back now...

I'm an avid backcountry skier myself, and currently reading a book about avalanches by one of the leading experts in the field. He had a table in the book that considered 100 day seasons, and a 95% stability of snowpack (all avalanche slopes are safe 95% of the time, all the time, roughly and on average). That means a person with no knowledge is 95% safe, someone with perfect knowledge is 99.99% safe (I think that was the number he used).

The survivability rate ranged from 2 years (or was it even 2 months?) for those without knowledge, to 100 years.

Avalanches are scary. The mountains are scary. And yet there's no place I feel more at home. I wish I could do this more often, but right now I can't. In any case, I respect nature and want to learn as much about it as I can.

What is the book?

The book is called Surviving in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper, he's involved with an avalanche safety center in Utah (I believe he's the director there, but don't know for sure - book not at hand). It's an absolute must-read if you want to get your feet back on the ground and learn about the mountains. I'm learning a ton and enjoying the process.

> They saw evidence of big slides on the way down, but kept going anyway!

Those caught in the avalanche didn't see any signs, 3 locals splintered from the group at the top and did, on a separate route.

> Waiting for those above by just standing around waiting in the potential slide path.

It's fairly clearly noted that even those in the path stopped in an old-growth bunch of trees, that's usually expected to be safe[0] (in fact, one of the 4 wedged himself in a tree and didn't get carried away)

> Calling 911 immediately shows a lack of experience and understanding. Those buried have ~13 minutes before their chances of survival drop to essentially zero - help is not coming to save them. YOU MUST SAVE THEM.

There were multiple people in search mode, and the first 911 call mentioned was 7mn after the avalanche, not "immediately" by a long shot.

[0] of course not as safe — or smart — as not being in the path at all to start with

The overwhelming reaction I had to this was of how bad the group dynamic sounded. I don't really agree with "severe lack of training and practice caused deaths". Everyone involved had some degree of backcountry experience - many of them had a lot. The issue wasn't lack of training and practice, the issue was how many of the skiers ignored their training and didn't listen to what their experience was trying to tell them.

The primary take-aways I found were to pay more attention to the human factor, keep group size down and route/hazard discussions happening, even (especially?) when skiing with pros or people you really respect and don't ski with all the time.

Fairly strongly disagree on hitting the slope at 11:45 and no snow pit being problems though. Totally depends on the day, and I wasn't there, but this thing slid on depth hoar 3 feet down - that's not caused by a little bit of february sun in Washington. As for digging pits, while I think they can be a good tool to get a look at the snowpack, I also think it's easy to rely on them too much. Spatial variability in a snow pack is HUGE, and all a pit does is tell you how the snow is behaving at one little, somewhat random point. Especially if you're a local and ski in the BC all the time, you should have a pretty good sense of what the snow pack is doing without doing any digging at all. In my home range (the Wasatch), I typically use snow pits mostly to test SPECIFIC questions like "how energetic is this known weak layer that I've been watching for days?." Far more useful are small little "hand pits" and pole probes as you go along, feeling the snow pack in a lot of different places to gather more data points. In this particular case, however, everyone already knew it was touchy, a snow pit wouldn't have changed much. The problem was that they didn't plan or ski accordingly.

The group dynamic reminds me of a chat I had with a friendly guy at my local motorcycle shop. He calls it "rally fever" when a bunch of guys on motorcycles (or scooters, or whatever) get together for a ride and let their inhibitions slip just enough to take that turn just a little bit too fast.

I am sure group rides are lots of fun, but I would be mindful of being extra cautious.

motorcycle group rides are the worst - overtaking a slower moving vehicle becomes way more risky. the first guy assesses, knows he will fit. second guy has enough power and reaction time to follow. the third+x goes in blind and behind and sometimes goes splat. sometimes because of a vehicle, sometimes because the vehicle in front blocked the view of a tightening turn.

riding in a group for a long time also gives you tunnel vision as you follow the guy in front of you all the time. if he goes down, target fixation kicks in and you hit him.

a good group has the rookies in front, to set the pace. rookies at the end mean the worst riders need to go the fastest.

I ride a commuter train in the greater Philadelphia region, at least once we mostly overshot the station (7 car train) with only two or three cars still at the station. The side-doors at the vestibule end were open; since the station had no platform, the auto-doors were locked in the open state and the stairwells were in the open position. Looking down I could see the rail-bed, then a relatively annoying drop into weeds. If I had decided to descend the steps, exit the train there and walk beside the train back to the station I was certain that I would be OK, but that other people would follow me down that path and get hurt. I didn't want that to happen, so I walked back through the train, and everyone followed.

I was on my way to school, the train got stuck about 100m out of the station because there were ground up leaves causing adhesion problems. The train sat there for about an hour, no announcements or anything, it was packed, people were jammed right up against each other and it was getting hot. Someone lost it, forced the doors open and jumped out, then lots of people just followed them. It was a pretty dangerous thing to do because the third rail was right below the doors and you had to sit on the step and then drop down about 1.5m onto the ballast right beside it. After the first couple of people jumped out I think the train crew probably got the traction current switched off and got some steps out but by then most people had jumped out and started walking on to the next station. So you probably did the right thing there!

Severe lack of training and practice caused deaths.

That is not what I got from reading that. Certainly, anything they did after the avalanche hit wouldn't have made a difference. At least that is the impression I got from the description of the injuries.

and a lot of them knew better.

And I think you somewhat agree. Or do you think they knew, but weren't trained well enough?

Thinking about how this could happen, I thought of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenerife_airport_disaster#Proba..., in particular the part where it says

The flight engineer's apparent hesitation to challenge Veldhuyzen van Zanten further, possibly because Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten was not only senior in rank, but also one of the most able and experienced pilots working for the airline

In this case, each of them seems to have felt safe because there were so many other experts around.

Also, no amount of training can fully prepare you for disaster. Even if you have been taught exactly what to do, you may not be able to do it in a situation of severe stress. That might explain the 911 calls. It could just be another 'program', that of 'call 911 for help' took over.

> Certainly, anything they did after the avalanche hit wouldn't have made a difference

That statement shows you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about and clearly have no place commenting here.

The reality is that how you react after an avalanche will absolutely impact the lives of those buried.

> Or do you think they knew

They seemed to know, but went against their gut.

> Also, no amount of training can fully prepare you for disaster.

Agree, that's why a big part of training is simulated avalanches where people are yelling at you, it's cold, and people are 'dying' every minute you choose to use your damn cell phone.

> The reality is that how you react after an avalanche will absolutely impact the lives of those buried.

The reality of that avalanche is that there was none: according to the doc' report, all three deceased were dead on arrival from blunt force trauma.

But you don't know that immediately after a slide, and you have to assume (hope) that's not the case and do everything your training has taught you to save those buried.

Making calls on your cell phone to report dead bodies is not included in that.

> But you don't know that immediately after a slide

Sure, but that still makes your disagreement with the assertion that:

> anything they did after the avalanche hit wouldn't have made a difference.

wrong, especially when it was followed (and clarified) by:

> At least that is the impression I got from the description of the injuries.

No, two reports were likely death by suffocation from not being able to expand their chest to breathe in.

I intended to respond to the parent post:

No, I think it's more insidious. These people knew what to do but social pressure and group dynamics kept all but one from opting out. The best decision they could have made was to abandon the run entirely. More training would not really have helped, as it would just confer more confidence.

Maybe the real training that people need for these kinds of high risk sports is to watch their friends die.

The group was composed of well-trained and knowledgeable skiers. I'd disagree, in whole or in part, with points 3,4,5,6,8,9,10, but HN isn't the place to quarterback an accident. Each point above is well-founded, but may not apply in this situation.

I think that the main reason that Mrs. Saugstad is doing so many interviews is to spread the word about avalanche and snow safety education. Snow is a counterintuitive medium. If you're headed into the backcountry, you owe it to your friends and family to take a class and learn. (Snow science is super fun, too.)

> Snow is a counterintuitive medium.

I think the bigger problem is ski resorts. They are so "safe" and controlled (we call them Disneyland) that anyone going skiing doesn't have to engage their brain.

It's then very easy to continue to behave in that manner when you are not at a resort.

Often in the back country we say out loud to each other "This is the real deal", "This is not a joke", "No ski patrol has been here" to constantly remind us to be alert to danger signs

Wasn't their another account of the avalanche, written by one of the survivors? IIRC, he made it sound like one of those instances where - individually - they all had misgivings about the conditions, but because no one was comfortable voicing their concerns, they all perceived the group as a whole to be in favor and didn't feel comfortable being the odd man out to question the group.

Yes, diffusion of responsibility. Psychology should be a big part of safety training. After all, most of the time you're training for something out of the ordinary.


IIRC Outside Magazine did an article about it in the past few months too, although I have not read it.

Thanks! That was the article I was thinking of.

Probably the biggest issue in avalanche education is how to deal with this human element. I can only imagine its even worse when amongst pros and industry elites like in this group.

FWIW there were such mentions in this account, section 2 or 3.

This was written for a less general purpose audience


I just wrote about this from 3 days ago, an inbounds slide at Crystal which is about 40 miles away from the Pass, as the crow flies


And truthfully, this thread is very similar to the discussion when Craig Kelly's group was caught out in Revelstoke (2003). We have better beacons and airbags but not much has changed (and funding for a lot of avalanche forecasters has been cut


I used to not think about slides but one day i was skinning around Kirkwood by myself (there are a few areas like K, Alta and Mammoth, that I used to know like the back of my hand) and the snow was whumphing and i was thinking it was textbook snow. A little crown broke off, maybe 2 inches high, 8 feet wide, and I was shocked at how hard it hit my boots, almost knocked me over

This article bring back memories since I was at Stevens Pass that day and remember all of the commotion. Saying that these experienced skiers lacked training and practice is completely false. Here is an article that was originally written around the time the accident happened: http://espn.go.com/action/freeskiing/story/_/id/7593035/aval...

"All of the people in the group were experienced backcountry skiers and were carrying avalanche rescue gear, Michelson said. They were skiing the line in sections, one by one, in accordance with standard safety protocol."

I cannot agree enough with this. I spend quite a bit of time every year in Whitefish Montana, and avalanche awareness is a big deal there in the winter time.

Back country skiing is akin to skydiving. Significant experience and training is required. From avalanche awareness training, to avalanche rescue training, to tools and devices that a back country team needs to have to safely participate in the back country snow experience.

You've got to be very experienced and educated before you venture out of bounds...

I suppose out of bounds in the case of skydiving would be something like base jumping?

  > Back country skiing is akin to skydiving
I got the impression that "Back-Country Skiing" == "Out of Bounds Skiing".

Hey look everyone, another keyboard commando has come to share his hypothetical heroism with us. We are honored.

The NYT just kinda blew my mind. A newspaper article just blew my mind. This is, by far, the best multimedia storytelling I think I've ever seen. Kudos to the team involved in putting this together, you've shown me the future of media and the internet.

I was reading some of the other comments here and wondering if anyone else thought the multimedia content upstaged the writing. This is the better than any kind of storytelling I've ever seen. Videos that auto play as you get to them. 3-D maps that rotate, zoom and plot a course as you scroll down. Path markers that draw on the map as the writer describes the scene. Hopefully more authors and artists will embrace this level of detail and integration of multimedia content with their stories.

My first thoughts were also on the same line as yours, but I guess that any disruptions (or mini ones such the way this story was delivered), we start off by being floored by the technology. Once the technology becomes ubiquitous, the content comes to forefront and becomes key.

I hope this trend of story telling with rich media content continues. Total immersion could be just around the corner.

Is anyone from the NYT here and can you give any insight into how long this project took to complete? Is this a beautiful one off, or is the goal that this format eventually becomes the new norm?

It says right at the bottom, copied for your convenience:

Graphics and design by Hannah Fairfield, Xaquín G.V., Jon Huang, Wayne Kamidoi, Sam Manchester, Alan McLean, Jacky Myint, Graham Roberts, Joe Ward, Jeremy White and Josh Williams. Photography by Ruth Fremson. Video by Catherine Spangler.

Additional video by Eric Miller and Shane Wilder.

Kristen Millares Young contributed research. The reporting for this article on the Feb. 19 avalanche at Tunnel Creek was done over six months. It involved interviews with every survivor, the families of the deceased, first responders at Tunnel Creek, officials at Stevens Pass and snow-science experts. It also included the examination of reports by the police, the medical examiner and the Stevens Pass Ski Patrol, as well as 40 calls to 911 made in the aftermath of the avalanche. The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research provided a computer-generated simulation of the avalanche, based on data accumulated from the Stevens Pass accident report and witness accounts. Additional sources are: LIDAR data from King County GIS Center; Iowa Environmental Mesonet, Iowa State University; Mark Moore, U.S. Forest Service; National Avalanche Center.

How much all this quality reporting and presentation cost? I have a feeling that in-depth journalism doesn't pay for itself.

This interview with Steve and Andrew should give you more details into the process, and links to similar projects done in the past: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/12/new-york-t...

I'm not surprised since Jeremy Ashkenas works there. They've got probably some of the best front-end web developers and they're extremely smart for realizing that those kind of people are what it takes to keep them relevant today.

Credit where credit's due -- this project has nothing to do with me. A small army of talented folks from Sports, the Graphics department, Photo and Video put it together over the course of several months: http://cl.ly/LibF

More details on how it was made here: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/198970/how-th...

As a former newsroom graphic artist, I'm really curious - I assume you work on the web team rather than the news side? What is the separation between the news teams and the web development team? Does the graphics team build special features like this? Are they also responsible for designing or building article templates? It's fun watching the new order take shape, and pieces like this make me long for the newsroom again...

You should get back into it then. I know the Times is always looking for good folks.

I'm in Interactive News, on the news side (for a few more days, at least ;) Special features like this one are usually done by Multimedia (recently merged with the Graphics team), and there are also many detailed individual graphics, photos, and videos that are a part of it.

Things like article templates are more in the Design department -- but they also collaborated on this. Really, everyone pitches in as best they can.

There isn't one, all-encompassing web team. The Interactive News department (as Jeremy has described) is in the newsroom, while teams like the one I am a member of (which make more structural stuff, for want of a better word) are a few floors away from the newsroom.

It's kind of a reflection of how deeply the web is (and will continue to be) integrated into organisations like NYT.

Frankly, I'd like to have a detailed online course to teach me how to create something like this including annotated code, exercises, the works. If I ever learn enough to do it myself, I'm going to teach my kids. A spectacular demonstration of the creative possibilities of this new medium! Thanks for creating it.

If you do see anyone there who you know worked on this, let them know they did a phenomenal job.

I literally gasped when it got to the animated map display. Truly brilliant.

Excellent story telling, beautiful pictures, animations and with minimal clicks.

the NYTimes is a failing operation desperately grabbing at any approach that may bring in readers. this story, with its complexity of mixed media, disrupted the story and made it hard to follow. fortunately, i use tools that strip the text and allow me to read it as one continuous whole. let the story tell the story. quit trying to be hip or 'trending'.

I think this works because the little videos in the breaks actually do a great job of complementing the content of the article (and happen to be pretty).

There was a link yesterday on HN that used a similar technique, but the breaks were static images that didn't really add anything to the content of the article [1]. Sure, they're pretty and novel, but I thought the breaks did more harm then good for somebody actually reading the interview. They were more distracting than anything.

I have a feeling that we'll see a lot more of this technique in the future. I personally hope that it doesn't just get slapped on for its visual appeal, but rather as a medium to present value-added content (like this NY Times article did).

[1] http://womenandtech.com/interview/heather-payne/

Completely agree on both counts. As designers and developers it will be difficult to resist the urge to replicate this all over the place purely for the visual impact, but I hope we don't.

The use was so fantastic here precisely because this sort of story cried out for exactly these tools to provide a deeper understanding.

Pitchfork (the music review site) employs this technique for their "Cover Story" features, some are better than others. I personally enjoy the "alive" feel of the stories:


Beautiful, but one fatal flaw is that they make the font size dependent on window width. I usually have to browser windows open and next to each other, each using about 720 horizontal pixels. With Pitchfork’s layout that results in way too tiny fonts.

I think it’s fundamentally wrong to make font size dependent on viewport width. What you want is to make it dependent on ppi and typical viewing distances (a phone can get aways with a smaller font because compared to a laptop, viewing distances are shorter) you can expect on the device that is used to display the content. Sadly, there is no straightforward way to access this information and we are currently limited to educated guesses.

> I usually have to browser windows open and next to each other, each using about 720 horizontal pixels.

call me crazy, but the way your arrange your windows is not really a use case we design for at pitchfork.

i agree that there may be a better way to do this, though, but we made the choice to scale fonts to viewport because we want a certain amount of information to look a certain way per page.

Ah, that's just my own pet peeve. Web design is full of trade offs and I think you made the right one. It's really not a good idea to view those articles with a 720px wide viewport. As I said, beautiful work and keep it up!

I dont think this works at all. Its heavy, difficult to read, and full of distractions. The fade in animations are unnecessary and the parallax scrolling adds nothing to the story. The multimedia functions more as footnotes or interruptions that route you outside of the narrative.

Its mobile-unfriendly and breaks the UI of NYT.com.

Wow. I couldn't disagree more. The integration of the extra content to the context of the story really added another level for me.

I liked it in principle - hated it in practice. The scroll-triggered animations were annoying. My internet happened to burp in the middle of reading the article and I was left with a lot of blankness and loading, until I reconnected AND refreshed the page.

The animations started playing right as soon as I scrolled on to them, meaning they were partially obscured until I scrolled to a certain point. If I accidentally passed that super special point, they were abruptly obscured on the opposite side by the rest of the article.

I hated it. If I wanted this sort of thing I would watch TV.

One of the best integration of multimedia and text that I have seen in 15 years of being on the internet.

Holy crap is that womenandtech format awful. It's like the internet version of a really bad pop-up-book.

The best long-form presentation of an article or essay I have ever seen on the internet.

It's great, but I can't help to get flashbacks to the mid '90s multimedia era. If someone would have shown me this as the future cutting edge back then, I probably would have been disappointed.

Taste matters.

90s multimedia rarely had it.

I think most of the encyclopedia CDs, like Microsoft Encarta, were quite tasteful. At least for their time. A blast from the past: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ4ptApL-k4

Had the same feeling. Made me think of a 1997-ish flash-laden special about a Mount Everest ascent some sports channel did. Technically pretty-much the same (integration of text + video + audio + animation), just using HTML instead of Flash. The difference is in the storytelling. This stuff only works if the story is front & central and the gimmicks augment the story.

Agreed. This article, more than anything else I've seen, convinced me that this is the future of news. Newspapers seem ridiculously outdated by comparison.

I've a lot of experience in back-country, including places like Iran where I skied several peaks. The one time I got into trouble (we had to be rescued by helicopter) was a scarily similar situation to this. I was with a large group (12) of some of the most experienced back-country people I've ever met. I was far and away the least experienced. This group included two Everest summitteers and the head of a mountain rescue service. Because everyone was so experienced they all assumed everyone else was taking the right decisions so they could switch off and relax. Group dynamics are everything in this situation - as they are in any sufficiently complex environment. Luckerly, after a cold night in a snow hole, we were rescued but my learnings were:

1) You need to always have a leader

2) The whole group needs to be aware of the plan at all times, you cannot over communicate

3) Listen to the nagging voice of intuition - if something feels wrong check that feeling out

4) Experts are not always on the top of their name, especially when tired or cold

Stay safe this winter people!

Great advice! These set of advice can even translated into this crazy startup work that we all live in!

The presentation is impressive. May future articles be so well-presented.

The people killed in Tunnel Creek and around our region on the same day were good friends, parents, and people.

This slide, in particular, has attracted so much attention because those involved are professionals and because the event resonated so strongly within the ski media community.

Missing from a lot of this accident's coverage is how very much life the slide victims had lived. We can honor them by living as well as they did.

Jim Jack, head judge for the Freeride World Tour, skiing with kids on the hometown hill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sQ2gU0OJ30

Those of you at startups may find resonance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuDR5_qbwPQ

I was riding at Stevens the day before this went down. It was deep, backcountry avalanche risk was high. Crappy footage here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=no34MOpMBxU

Ditto that sentiment. Live passionately, look out for others.

Snowboarding (resort and backcountry) is my preferred diversion from computers and 'real' life, and I was riding at Stevens the day before Tunnel Creek slid. This is a very meaningful presentation of a tragic event, and very real example of the risks involved in getting out in the snow.

For those of you more interested in the avalanche / snow-science side of things than that this doesn't render properly on your mobile device, check out http://nwac.us. Specifically, here is their initial analysis of the Tunnel Creek incident: http://www.nwac.us/media/uploads/documents/accidents/2011_20...

If you read enough survival memoirs you start to see elements of these stories common between them. One of those elements is concern over how one will be seen by their peers for expressing caution.

I don't like to speak authoritatively about most subjects, but I feel very strongly about this one thing. Vanity has no place in the back country. Gosh, in a group of 16 people, not all of whom are acquainted, if at least one doesn't think you're a sissy then it's plainly impossible that everyone is well informed of the risks being taken.

As an owner of an Avalanche Safety app mobile shop I'd say its amazing to get some of this innovation in to articles like this.

Getting users to think about the judgement and impact of the choices they make when they are seeking this rush is a very challenging. Breaking the mold to make a possibly more impactful presentation is exactly what Avalanche education needs.

I completely agree. As a person that gets 50+ days skiing per year, and loves powder, you have to PAY ATTENTION. Those powder runs look great until you understand how wrong it can go.

And people, don't jump into tree runs to avoid anything. It's plenty fast in there and if you are too slow, you're dead.

It's OK to ask for a ride down from the lifties.

What is the app?

In case it's helpful, here's a screenshot of what this article looks like on an iPhone (Chrome): http://i.imgur.com/B1ZkO.png

It won't let me zoom out or zoom in. The only way to read the article is by dragging back and forth repeatedly.

Technical/debugging note: everything was fine before the top header image fully loaded. I could zoom out and zoom in before that image showed up, so therefore that header image is somehow removing the ability to zoom for iPhone users (and is also causing the 200% zoom-in).

Odd. It looks perfectly fine to me, in both mobile Safari and mobile Chrome. The text is completely visible, with a little padding on either side, and videos all slide nicely into the text column.

Trying to read this story was really frustrating on an iPhone. I had to keep swiping left and right because the zoom was locked to about double the width of my screen.

It's a shame because, from the sound of the other comments, it sounds like a really nice layout on the desktop. It's a shame they destroyed the mobile experience.

Looking at it on the desktop - WOW.

Such a nice design but it's a shame mobile is left out. Something like that is nice to read away from the desktop.

On linux, whether it's Chrome or Firefox, none of the videos play. Really great experience but would love to see the videos. When I get home, I'll have to pop open my Mac to get the full experience.

That's not my experience with Chrome on Linux; everything worked.

I had this issue but noticed it's because the Ghostery chrome extension blocks Brightcove, where the videos are hosted. Maybe you have a similar problem?

I also had this issue, in my case the culprit was the Kill-Flash extension. Adding nytimes.com and brightcove.com to the whitelist made everything work.

Works fine for me in Chrome and Firefox on Xubuntu.

The videos on both Firefox 17 and Chrome 24 worked for me on Linux.

Looking good here ... Squeeze 64, KDE, nVidia GTX 570 ...

Works fine on Solaris in FireFox 10 ESR.

Working fine in Chrome on Mint here.

All I saw was a white screen. Turned out to be Ghostery blocking some content. Ghostery, you have a twisted sense of humour.

Thank you. I tried to figure out which one, but in the end just enabled everything.

I first read the entire story on the mobile app, not even knowing that it was part of a larger presentation. The writing itself is very compelling, but the format on the full site adds so much.

Tracking the people through the thumbnail images and seeing the different parts of the mountain matched up to the images the story had produced in my head.

It's a testament to the content and the medium that they chose.

What a stunning tribute to the story.

Every part of this was precisely, beautifully and expertly planned to have a profound emotional pull to see the story through to the end. It worked. While I was reading, I felt the emotion from the words + the animations + video + audio.

I love the format, design and style. Simply brilliant.

Sigh, Flash crashed on me (Chrome 23, Windows 7 64-bit)... I bet doing this in HTML5 would be more reliable.

Edit: the Flash content is the ad in the middle of the page, right after the following paragraph:

"To head straight down to the bottom is to enter what experts call a terrain trap: a funnel of trouble and clumsy skiing, clogged with trees and rocks and confined by high walls. Few go that way intentionally."

How saddening. They worked hard to make it HTML5 compliant, but the user experience for some is ruined by this ad crashing everything...

All the videos are HTML5 <video> tags for me. The mountain-top diagram isn't Flash, either.

> All the videos are HTML5 <video> tags for me.

Not the case here, the "big" ones are <video> tags but the smaller videos embedded from linked from the text is flash (and that's apparently sufficient to make everything crawl to a halt, Chrome barely shows up in top but the flash process maxes out a core)

Can we take a moment to note what a terrible piece of journalism this is? It's written like a short story. I read half way though and still don't know who lived, who died, or when it happened.

It's called a feature. If you want your news quick and easy, read Google News headlines.

What if the future of grade school textbooks was this. Learning would be fascinating. What a great design.

I remember a lot of multimedia learning materials in the late '80s and 1990s. Some were good, some weren't, but I don't feel they really improved my education much. The only ones that really stuck with me were more simulation-type ones, not as much these multimedia-text ones. I do recall learning a lot about oil drilling from an oil-drilling simulation game.

Encarta 95 was really great. Really set the tone for my decade later wikipedia browsing habit.

> Learning would be fascinating.

I thought it was already, for many subjects.

It is, but somehow schools still manage to make it not so.

That is a great point. It would almost be fun to learn in this type of way.

Can I just say I really really love this new design? It's wonderful.

Impressed by this feature! I think this is a glimpse at how newspapers can become a lot more relevant/adapt to an online medium. Right now most news sites don't nearly take advantage of presenting a story online.


"why would I pay for news when I can get it for free"

Why do people buy Time magazine or National Geographic? There is a big difference between "news" and better/well researched background articles. There are whole brick-and-mortar stores dedicated to selling magazines like this. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to transfer this to the web, or has it has become quite popular lately, a tablet of some sort.

Is it a safe assumption, though, that in the future writers will have the tools needed to more easily and cheaply present their stories in this manner?

We are already seeing tools such as Mozilla's Popcorn Maker (https://popcorn.webmaker.org/) arise.

Not to speak ill of the dead but I don't know WTF these people were thinking. I was skiing at Crystal (~80 miles away) the same day. IIRC we had about 14-16" of freshies that day. It was GORGEOUS in bounds, why go out? I had checked the avalanche data for a side project that day and it was as bad as you can get. And they were skiing in a known serious avalanche hazard zone. Just showing off to out of town bigwigs IMHO. Someone died at Alpental (in the backcountry area), one pass over, that day as well when a slide pushed him off of a cliff.

Interesting to note that all the snowboarders refused to join the crowd and opted to go their own way. Erin the liftie, who actually took off skiers right on her own; tall Tim, who took off alone hard left; and pankey and Carlson who followed tall Tim and ultimately discovered the bodies. Snowboarders are stereotypically not crowd followers, and that characteristic might have saved them here.

Pretty snow pictures not impressing me. Annoyed at the interruption of the storey flow. Never watch irrelevant videos anyway - hate podcasts with a passion - information density around zero.

So not for everybody. From the comments here, you'd think its gods gift to journalism.

Also it hijacked my Back button on my browser, had to kill the page, lost my browse context so I resent it for that too.

> Also it hijacked my Back button on my browser, had to kill the page, lost my browse context so I resent it for that too.

Right-/long-click your back button (depending on your browser) to get the local history. Then choose one page before NYT.


But I wonder why reasonable people would ever write a page to hijack 'Back'. Annoys me every time.

What am I missing here?

It looks visually great, but aren't we basically looking at text with embedded videos? On Twitter the buzz about this made me this was a brand new way of presenting articles - you know what it reminds me of most? A book.

This comes across as comparing poor journalism to good journalism and complaining that you it's all 'just words,' so what's the 'big deal?'

Let me try again - the buzz on twitter I referred to was focussed on how this design represented a bold new way of presenting journalism to an audience.

My point is; to characterise presenting an article in this interface as revolutionary strikes me as incorrect - it instead harks back to a format that we're all familiar with and which works very well. Which, as I wrote, is the book.

The quality of the journalism doesn't come into it; I'm sure it's very good.

The initial impression is breathtaking - captivating and provocative. Love it.

Page loaded, saw the article text briefly. Then the JS loaded and all that remained was the header. Fancy web effects are all well and good but not so much when they prevent you from viewing the content.

First thought: That's really beautiful

Second thought: My fan's gone mad. Glad I'm on AC...

I am surprised this article presents itself best in a browser on my desktop/laptop, then in a browser on my iPad, and has the least interesting presentation in the native NYT iPad App.

This kind of "article" is probably why the NYT paywall is actually working. A "newspaper" filled with these types of stories would actually be worth paying for.

Wow. This should come with a warning that you are likely to spend the next hour and a half engrossed and saddened by this story.

whilst beautiful, I couldn't stay focused on the story long enough to read it all. So I tried my back button. Oops, I went to the top of the page. Back button again.. nope, still on the page.

New York Times, stop hijacking my back button

Really great job on the format. Well written.

All of which goes to naught when flash BSODs W7 on page 6.

The heck?

The NYTimes guys are doing some really really good HTML work!

Very nice web design on this page.. great.

Is this the future of newspapers?


this is amazing.

can anyone explain to me why this comment would be downvoted?

I imagine it would be because the comment is not perceived to add any value at all and is merely consuming space.


Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact