Avalanche anniversary brings back hard and happy memories for family
Education: Sister says she hopes teen deaths wont discourage back country excursions
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 07:23 pm
It has been a decade since seven students from Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School were killed in an avalanche creating worldwide headlines about the loss of the bright, young and happy youth.
On Feb. 1, 2003 a group of 14 teens and three adults from Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School were swept under a deadly avalanche. Since then the school has made substantial changes to its backcountry ski trip and avalanche warning systems in Alberta have been upgraded as well.
However, for the families of those seven students who were killed the pain lingers on.
Marissa Staddon was one of the students who died in the avalanche at Connaught Creek Valley in the Rogers Pass.
For Marissa’s sister, Brittany Staddon, talking about her sibling is still difficult.
From her house in Canmore, Staddon said her and her older sister Marissa (by two years) were inseparable.
“We were very close,” Staddon said. “We did pretty much everything together.”
Her sister was charismatic she said, and full of talent.
“She was musical and athletic,” Staddon recalled.
Marissa was a figure skater, played on her school’s basketball and volleyball teams in junior high, was on the running team and could play the piano, saxophone, flute and clarinet, her sister said.
Marissa also loved the outdoors, a trait she learned from her father.
“My father was quite an outdoorsman,” she said. “We were raised hiking and skiing.”
Staddon said she only knows some of the details about the changes the school and the province have made to increase safety and awareness around avalanches, but it has been reassuring to hear changes are being made.
“Any improvement and awareness is a good thing,” she said.
Now at 22-years-old, Staddon has moved to Canmore, where she said she appreciates the beauty of the mountains despite the danger lingering in the shadows.
She said her sister also loved the mountains and wouldn’t want people to stay out of the backcountry.
“I don’t want this event to discourage people from exploring the backcountry and the natural beauty around us,” she said.
Staddon attended Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School from Grades 10 to 12, following Marissa’s death, but didn’t take part in the outdoor education classes.
“It just wasn’t my interest,” she explained. “If it was I would have.”
Staddon said now living in Canmore she is planning to take up backcountry skiing or cross-country skiing and she believes her sister would want her to as well.
“I’m not particularly good at it, but I feel it’s a wonderful opportunity and there’s lots to explore,” she said.
Her parents regularly attend the honour day assembly held at the school every year for the anniversary of the avalanche and as a student she was in attendance when the assembly was held.
“I felt it was well done and respectful,” Staddon said.
The school has also created a spot in the neighbouring woods, called the Forever Woods, to honour the students.
“I like that, the Forever Woods,” she said. “Its always there for students to come together.”
Staddon won’t be at the assembly this year, but she said her thoughts will be with her sister.
“The memories are more fresh at this time of year,” she said.
Even though a decade has passed, Staddon still breaks down in tears while talking about her memories of her sister.
“It’s still difficult,” she said. “I really miss my sister.”