Mike says that, on balance, nature has given him back far more than it took from him that one day. "Of everything in nature, from the sublimely beautiful to the haphazardly disastrous, I'd say 90 percent of the stuff I've been through in the mountains has been sublimely beautiful," he says.
Still, he adds, "Me and Barry, we watch each other a lot closer now." A month ago, on the group's first day out, the clouds that normally blanket the Selkirk Mountains broke open, revealing a blindingly blue sky. The conditions were perfect. Mike stepped to the edge of the empty bowl. He looked both ways, jammed the AvaLung into his mouth, and pushed off into space. "It was one of the best days skiing in my life," he says.