In celebration, I’m sharing the first chapter with you. Enjoy 🙂
Fearless of skiing in the backcountry, Roy McCann climbed to the summit of Stone Mountain Resort and paused at the entrance to the Dragon’s Bowl. His muscles ached, and his calf cramped from the strenuous ascent. He released his boot from the binding of his touring ski and stretched his foot toward his shin, fighting the developing knot.
The first glow of morning light reflected off the run, and Roy searched the shadows for signs of another person. A two-kilometer crescent started above the tree line and ended in the forest, providing a steep powder run for only the most advanced skiers and snowboarders. The terrain also provided infinite hiding spots. So where?
The avalanche warning sign hanging from an orange safety line displayed a considerable danger rating. Logic said he should turn back. Not a chance. His need to finish what he started was stronger than logic.
He surveyed the precipice above the bowl. An overhanging mass of hardened snow extended along three quarters of the ridge, but the band of uncertainty was small. He could manage the terrain.
Prepping for a downhill run, he removed the climbing skins from the base of the skis. He ducked the line and traversed to his favorite entry point into the bowl.
The sun rose over the peaks, and his headlamp automatically switched off. Twelve hundred meters below, the chairlift operators began their morning ritual. The lifts rotated, and the rhythmic hum of machinery drifted toward him. His shift with ski patrol started at eight, so he’d better get his ass in gear. He’d done his best.
He jumped off the edge and attacked the run. Powder sprayed above his knees as he glided through each turn. A skier’s dream.
Several seconds in, the whumph of packed snow fracturing echoed across the Purcell Mountain range.
He jammed the edges of his skis against a mogul, stopped and checked the cliff directly above him. The morning sun glistened off the snow, momentarily blinding him. The rumble of a slide pummeling everything in its path reverberated through his bones.
An ash-gray cloud of snow exploded over the cliff, blocking out the sky. Too late. Ice chunks, trees and mountain detritus surged toward him, sounding like a vat full of boiling rocks.
He pushed with his poles and took off. Crouching, he picked up speed.
The avalanche closed in. He glanced left and right, searching for an escape route, but dense forest lined both sides. He raced toward the edge of the run, aiming for shallower snow.
Wind blasted past him, and snow grabbed the back of his skis, shot putting him forward. He flung his hand toward the on button of his transceiver, but it wasn’t there. He’d been in such a hurry earlier he’d shoved the equipment into his backpack instead of putting on his harness. Dumb.
He hit the ground chest first, air expelling from his lungs. His muscles fought a losing battle for control, and he plummeted. Desperate to stay above the turbulent snow, he swam. Sunlight flashed on and off each time his face breached the surface and was dragged under again.
Snow mixed with fragments of mountain pounded him from every angle, ragdolling him end over end, snapping a bone in his right arm. A rock snagged his backpack and ripped the straps off his shoulders. A branch tore his upper lip in half.
He glimpsed a person blurred by a curtain of snow. He screamed, but the roar of the avalanche swallowed the sound.
An immense pressure came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. His left hand cupped in front of his mouth, providing a small pocket of air. His right arm burned as if it had been pulled from its socket. His boots pressed against his feet, making it impossible to wiggle his toes.
The pulse in his neck pounded. Slow your breathing.
In less than fifteen minutes the snow would solidify into an ice mask, creating a sealed cavity around his face and cutting off his clean air supply. His own breath would slowly kill him as his oxygen transformed into carbon dioxide. The deeper he breathed, the faster he would die.
The unattached half of his lip blocked one nostril. He worked his tongue, creating moisture in his mouth, tasted blood and spat. Saliva dribbled from the corner of his mouth to his ear, telling him he lay with his face toward the surface.
He scratched his fingers against the packed mass in a feeble attempt to dig himself out. To break the silence, he closed his eyes and hummed his mother’s favorite tune.
His sister flashed in front of him like images on a movie screen. He owed Kalin…a lot. Maybe he deserved this.
“It’ll be alright.” But he knew it wouldn’t. Every night demon his brain had ever conjured up, every imaginary villain who chased him because of what he’d done joined him now.
At seven thirty-two a.m., Roy’s headlamp burst to life, eerily illuminating his surrounding snow coffin.
Read more at myBook.to/Avalanche. Avalanche will be on sale for a few more days…