An unparalleled memoir that grapples with the complex relationships that exist within the mountaineering community and how personal choices can have deep and tragic consequences.
On January 20, 2003, at 10:45 a.m., a massive avalanche released from Tumbledown Mountain in the Selkirk Range of British Columbia. Tonnes of snow carried 13 members of two guided backcountry skiing groups down the 37-degree incline of a run called La Traviata and buried them. After a frantic hour of digging by remaining group members, an unthinkable outcome became reality. Seven people were dead.
The tragedy made international news, splashing photos of the seven dead Canadian and US skiers on television screens and the pages of newspapers. The official analysis did not specifically note guide error as a contributing factor in the accident. This interpretation has been insufficient for some of the victims’ families, the public and some members of the guiding community.
Buried is the assistant guide’s story. It renders an answerable truth about what happened by delving deep into the human factors that played into putting people in harm’s way. The story begins buried metres deep in snow, and through care-filled reflection emerges slowly like spring after a long winter, nurturing a hopeful, courageous dialogue for all who make journeys through the mountains of their life. The story illustrates the peace that comes from accountability and the growth that results from understanding.
About the author
Ken Wylie is an internationally certified mountain guide and a member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, and the American Mountain Guides Association. He has led expeditions around the world, including Canada, New Zealand, Peru, Denali, and Joshua Tree. He has 30 years of experience as a mountain guide and experiential educator for organizations including Yamnuska Mountain School, Outward Bound Canada, and Outward Bound USA. Ken has also taught courses at the University of Calgary and as a faculty member at Mount Royal University and Thompson Rivers University. Courses include leadership; rock, ice, and alpine climbing; and ski touring and expedition planning. Originally from Alberta, Canada, Ken founded Mountains for Growth in 2013 to help individuals and groups gain personal insight and wisdom through outdoor adventures. Most recently, Ken has worked with men who are transitioning out of being homeless, offering journeys of connection and healing to those who have suffered deeply, which is profiled in the CBC documentary "The Weight We Carry". He is currently writing and developing programs for men that include practices that bring participants back to the 2500 year old adventurous mystical roots of western society. Ken lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
"For those of us who ski with guides, or are guides, this book is a wake-up call. Guides are human beings like anyone else and can make mistakes. Ken Wylie, in his heartfelt examination of this avalanche incident, has shown us that we must be prepared to speak up and take responsibility for our actions. He has written a very brave and thought-provoking book which should be on the course syllabus for all aspiring guides." —Chic Scott, alpinist, historian, and author of Deep Powder and Steep Rock: The Life of Mountain Guide Hans Gmoser
"It is a rare story where a man exposes his soft underbelly in the telling of his hero's journey." —Sharon Wood, author of Rising: Becoming the First Canadian Woman to Summit Everest, A Memoir
"Buried is an engaging and thought-provoking look at an accident that shook the backcountry ski industry, and a reflective story of Wylie's internal struggle to regain self-identity. If anything positive can come from the story of the tragic day in January of 2003, it is to help other skiers see what could have been done differently, and that's exactly what Wylie hopes Buried can do." —Off-Piste Magazine
"Buried was not an easy book to read. By the end of the first half I found myself emotionally incredibly raw, I didn't want to keep reading, but I also couldn't put the book down. I was watching a car wreck, but it felt like my car wreck. In the second half of the book you get a bit more distance from Ken, which, to be honest, is a relief. But you also get hope, and inspiration to look at your own past mistakes in the same unflinching manner and learn those lessons you didn't learn at the time. If Ken can do it, after being through so much, fuck, maybe so can I." —Phil Tomlinson, Canadian Spindrift
"With the publication of Buried, Wylie takes a bold step to reverse course and share what he experienced, what he knew from the guiding perspective. In the process of telling his tale, he metaphorically digs himself out and frees himself from the bondage of being buried in life." —Earn Your Turns
"In this day of memoir by 'victim,' Buried is refreshing. Perhaps refreshing is the wrong word, but Ken's book and unvarnished, authentic approach is welcome. The arc of the story is not victimization, but self-realization and personal growth. Of moving beyond. We all make mistakes. We must learn to live with them. That is the story in Buried." —Keith Liggett, Powder Canada
"What makes Buried a worthwhile read is the insight into the need for backcountry enthusiasts and guides to speak up when they feel something is wrong with the situation they are in. Ken explores the human factor of the accident and how following others permeated his life." —Mountain Obsession