Travel

‘I got caught in a snow storm that changed my life’


Daredevil skier Dan Egan and his brother John took extreme skiing to new heights (Picture: Dave Roman)

In the 1980s and 1990s, my brother John and I were the definition of extreme skiing, an electrifying pursuit performed off-piste on long, steep slopes in mountainous terrain.

As we headed to places never skied before, we made the first extreme skiing descents in Russia, Turkey, the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, and even jumped off the Berlin Wall in front of the cameras.

There are few things in life as thrilling as a good ski run. The mountain, the snow, the speed, the rush of ripping fresh turns down a steep, north-facing slope. But through all my adventures and memories of skiing, one experience stands out.

In May 1990, I found myself on Mount Elbrus in Russia, pinned down by a snowstorm at 18,500ft. Elbrus has a higher annual death toll than Mount Everest and May 2, 1990, would become one of the most disastrous days in the mountain’s climbing history.

John and I had travelled there with an expedition consisting of 23 people from nine countries. The plan was to hike up the eastern peak, then perform daredevil skiing down the challenging steep slopes.

Dan even jumped over the Berlin Wall on his skis (Picture: Dave Roman)

So far, it wasn’t going well. On the night of May 1, a storm raged briefly but it broke by morning. With the skies clearing above, I left John behind and made for the top. This decision would leave me stranded.

On the summit, the storm hit us. Luckily, we weren’t alone. Russian guide Sasha convinced us to come with him and his fellow climbers. The situation grew worse. One of the climbers fell through a crevasse, forcing Sasha to rescue him.

As the storm grew, all we could do was wait it out. After digging a cave for four and a half hours, I laid down, snow piling up outside, and pondered my life.

Dan is still skiing to this day, but has never forgotten his experience on Mount Elbrus (Picture: Ian Anderson)

After my night in the snow cave, Sasha and I rescued 14 people and arrived at the base of the mountain at midnight on May 3, 1990. But there were casualties.

I was 26 and nothing would have turned me back from climbing that mountain that day but walking off it was the beginning of my adult life.

Now I’ve come to realise that while skiing tested me to my limit, it also saved me and spurred me on to achieve so much more.

Dan’s book Thirty Years In A White Haze is out now. For more about his adventures and ski trips visit skiclinics.com.

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