2-26-08: Craig Medred Can’t Write 

Personally I’m a bit torn about what is to follow. After our close escape from disaster on Saturday I decided to stay safe and pass Sunday, despite the beautiful tempting sunshine, loafing on the couch. Which, proved to be pleasant enough, except for the few moments I spent reading Craig Medred’s column, Your Brain Beats Beacon for Avalanche Safety, which despite that reasonable title is one the most rambling, idiotic, classless and unintelligent columns I’ve ever read. Since then I’ve been vacillating between writing a vicious attack letter or simply ignoring and forgetting the unpleasant experience of reading his incoherent rambling that so clearly marks him out as a horrible writer lacking an ability for reasoned and intelligent analysis who also lacks the most basic trait necessary in all journalists, simple curiosity. At first I felt writing this would only bring undue attention to this forgettable article but the forces of boredom have driven me to write it. 

I should have quit reading at his first sentence: “If avalanche beacons are supposed to save lives why do so many people who wear them end up dead.”: End up dead? Great hook Craig, I really enjoy the way you frame this as some sort of mystery, almost bordering on a conspiracy where by wearing an avalanche beacon a person somehow exposes themselves to undue harm. To end up dead, as if the cause of the deaths he’s so clearly referring to is in anyway mysterious. As an opening to a column this is nothing but disingenuous. Why not something simply along the lines of “If avalanche beacons are supposed to save lives, why do so many people wearing them die in avalanches?” Because any reader with sense would instantly equate that to “Why do so many people wearing seat belts die in car accidents?” and dismiss the entire article as trifling after the first sentence. 

From there Craig goes on to list the 16 avalanche fatalities which have occurred so far this winter and states that from his research onwww.Avalanche.org that of these victims :“eight were reported to be wearing beacons”: and that :“according to avalanche experts this isn’t unusual.”: That the entire premise for his article was flawed became apparent. That eight people died wearing beacons is entirely inconsequential when considering the more important issue of how many people were saved by wearing avalanche beacons. In my own cursory reading of www.Avalanche.org I found accounts of 8 people who were saved by their beacons since the first of January. After ten minutes of light research it was clear that without avalanche beacons the death toll Craig has stated would have increased by 50 percent as well as more then doubling the state of Alaska’s current death count, with an additional two certain fatalities in the Seattle Creek slide on February 15th and one from the massive slide on Sunburst on the 23rd. So clearly avalanche beacons save lives. Something Craig himself admits in his column with : “there is no denying a beacon could save your life.” : So having admitted what reason does he have to continue this dreadful column? 

Initially I figured Craig was simply mailing in this week excuse in order to collect a paycheck, so obvious was his lack of effort. Despite his blanket quoting of :“avalanche experts” : he fails to quote a single such expert, despite having, here in Alaska, more such experts then almost anywhere on earth. Yet rather then talk and rely the thoughts of an expert in the field and possibly educate himself and his readers on the merits of avalanche beacons he manages to build the remainder of the article around quotes from Hannah Nordhaus, , a columnist for the Rocky Mountain Daily News, who’s columns are easily retrieved with a simple Google search. Clearly Craig isn’t even bothering to pursue any thorough research or perform any reasoned analysis into the merits of avalanche beacons, and is simply aiming to fulfill some arbitrary word count set by him employer. So I guess I need to question the Alaska Daily News itself for continuing to employ such a lazy and disinterested writer. I know Alaska isn’t exactly stocked with talent but surely they could find someone who would at least try. Why even print this crap, 90 percent of the paper is crap reprinted from the AP and various national news services anyway. Why bother paying this guy? I guess desperation to fill space took over, but hell, I’d rather look at a another add for the mattress ranch then read the cack Craig managed to get printed. And the worst is still to come. 

Medred transitions into the final portion of his painful article by posing the question : “Do avalanche beacons contribute to these deadly mistakes? I don’t know for sure.”: Despite his stated lack of knowledge on the subject goes on to speak of : “people wear them thinking they are the magic bullet that can save one from death in an avalanche.” : Has anyone met any of these people? I certainly haven’t, not in Alaska, nor in Utah, or France, and that is despite constantly skiing and associating myself with a incredible number of idiots. I’ve met more people, certainly among University of Utah avalanche class professors and classmates, who claim to not always ski with a beacons because they aren’t a magic bullet; stressing the key to avalanche survival is avoidance. Has Medred met any of these people, who he claims strap on a beacon and feel immune to the consequences of an avalanche? I doubt it. I imagine this entire article was something he imagined between bong hits late Saturday afternoon as he recovered from Friday’s fabulous coke binge and hastily written in a desperate attempt to make his deadline for the Sunday edition. Likely a couple hours after Ian Wilson had been reached and rescued after spending 25 minutes under the snow, thanks to his avalanche beacon. 

As any of my regular readers will know, I myself am quite lazy, and find it forgivable, and even an admirable trait in many people, so I would happily dismiss this article as a weak effort from an uninformed journalist (who admittedly got the main point right, good judgment is paramount) simply trying to make a deadline if I didn’t find the timing of this article wasn’t so abhorrent. First, simply by wasting print tediously re-listing a set of deaths, and coming after the recent tragedy in Seattle Creek, Craig is implying that bad judgment when assessing avalanches is some sort of society wide problem, and manages to completely ignore the fact that avalanches are an inherent risk of being in mountainous terrain. He fails to mention that avalanches are a risk everyone in the mountains must negotiate to varying degrees. And to blame avalanche beacons, going after beacons (his opiate of the backcountry) like prohibitionists attacking booze, for peoples lack of judgment is just as ridiculous as stating the added security of seat belts causes people to speed, or smoking pot invariably leads to a life of turning tricks for crack. His attempt to drive this belief by skewing facts made me sick to my stomach. He states: “Avalanche fatalities haven’t gone down since beacons appeared on the scene. They’ve steadily gone up” : and once again gets the question entirely backwards. The question he should be asking is whether or not the number of avalanche survivals has gone up since the appearance of beacons. But clearly this column was so backwards it was better off having never begun. 


Secondly to spend time criticizing as well as pointing out the mistakes of those unfortunate enough to have lost their lives in avalanches, and your obviously allusions towards the members of your own community who recently perished in avalanches is incredibly disrespectful to the countless friends and family members currently grieving their loss.