Let’s be honest with ourselves; with every decision presented to us in the mountains, do we always make the right choice? Do we share uneventful bad choices with others in an opportunity for learning or sweep them under the rug to avoid a public shaming? As a Snowmobile Professional and Avalanche Instructor it is my job to help people build knowledge and practice the skills of making safe and informed decisions mitigating the inherent risks that come with exploring deep into the backcountry. There are always human factors involved in the decision process, and we can learn how to recognize when we abandon our trained systems and ignore warning signs.
I had a discussion with Hunter Kraz from Team Boodoo regarding his decision to drop a 90-foot cliff, he was lucky to walk away from that completely destroyed his snowmobile. Kraz has been a lifelong snowmobile fanatic and like most self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkies” he has been pushing his limits and those of his riding team increasingly over the past seven years. Post incident there were a series of social media posts shaming his decision to drop the 90-foot cliff. During our discussion Kraz made it clear that he would like to share his experience so others can learn from his wreck without attempting to live through the impact that he did.
Kraz explained that this cliff was not a “hail-Mary” attempt at something far beyond anything he had ever dropped and has progressively increased the size of his drops. Kraz had a predisposed plan to choose a large drop from the terrain they were guided through on a weekend destination ride. Kraz admits that, “…I am not going to pull the “unlucky landing” card on this one. I should have rode below the drop to check the landing from another angle.” Days like these with flawless conditions, deep blower pow and endless visibility will cause any rider’s confidence to soar. Kraz had mentally built up this moment; immediately when he saw the cliff he knew this was his drop. From the top of the feature, the landing looked steep. Excited and full of adrenaline Kraz rushed his decision-making process and ignored his inkling that the landing zone may not be ideal.
Aerial footage of the event shows Kraz landing in a flat zone unnoticed from the two angles of the group. He stuck the landing with assertion, but the impact crushed his fuel tank and snapped his head forward into his handlebars. The blunt force head trauma collapsed his left eye socket, front forehead, nasal cavity and broke his nose. Doctors who treated Kraz are amazed that he survived the impact without breaking his neck. Grateful to ride another day, Kraz reflects on this incident with a new-found respect for the implications of rushed decisions. When asked what he would have done differently Kraz said that he would have chosen a more familiar zone as well as invested additional time ensuring that the landing was the correct angle for the drop. The magnitude of his rescue has open his eyes to the fact that everyone there was effected by his decision and his should have been included in the decision-making process.
Based on personal experiences we as riders choose our own unique level of risk tolerance to make decisions. This life changing event will certainly alter Kraz’s risk tolerance and adjust his decision-making process, evolving him as a rider. Kraz has a young son who he looks forward to exploring the mountains with. What better purpose is there to make strong choices than that.