Later in the day we had a chance to see the destruction caused by some recent snowslides. "See that slide over there?" Santa Maria pointed across a valley between us and another mountain. "Those tracks on the left are from another Interconnect tour. We were skiing there a few days ago, and about 15 minutes later some cross-country skiers set a slide off from above. We didn't even hear about it until we got home that night."
He sounded almost cavalier. But I knew that Santa Maria was all business. In 1982 his best friend was killed in an avalanche near Park West resort in Utah, and he himself has been caught in a few "small slides." For several years he has been keeping track on a computer of the tours he guides: weather, areas skied, snow conditions, avalanches sighted. All the data is stored on floppy disks to help him predict the risks. At his home in Park City he also keeps track of wind, temperature and snowfall.
At lunch Santa Maria had talked about the accident in Colorado. "Those skiers in Breckenridge weren't the first people to ski the bowl where they died," he said. "Apparently there were lots of tracks all over the place. It's always better to err on the side of caution. You just never know when the snow is going to let go."