Losing One of Our Own


ALEC STALL DIED ON VALENTINE'S DAY, 2005. I SUPPOSE THERE'S SOME SORT OF tragic irony in that, but I can't quite figure out what it means. Stall, as many of you know, was swept by a slough of snow over a cliff just north of Mount Mansfield, Vermont, while filming with Burlington-based Meathead Films.

I first met Stall when he was 22, in February of 2004, while researching a feature story on Meathead Films for this magazine ("A Tribe Called Meat," September 2004). I skied with him at Stowe, and on Mount Marcy, and I shared beers with him and his fellow Meatheads in the apartment Stall shared with Joe Morabito.

In all, I spent six days with the Meatheads. I probably could have done the story in four, but damn, I was having fun. Hanging out with the boys was like drinking from a magic elixir that erased a good 10 years off my tally. Stall, with his running commentary on everything from college women to cheap beer to straw-bale house construction, was a significant ingredient in that potion. We hit it off particularly well, perhaps because we shared a passion for cycling that rivaled our love of skiing.

In the days following Stall's death the rumors flew, most based around the assumption that the Meatheads were fools-reckless young skiers who shirked safety and invited disaster. In fact, most of the Meats have their Level I avalanche certifications, and the crew always wears helmets, even on extended backcountry tours. I wonder how many of the Eastern skiers I heard crying foul can say the same?

Of course, Stall and his friends pushed their limits. I bet-hell, I hope-the skiers reading these words push their limits on the mountain. But no matter how hard we push, we've been conditioned by our surroundings to believe that death is not a likely consequence. I've heard it said and I've said it myself: One of the great things about skiing in the East is that you don't have to worry about dying. By and large, we lack the exposure, the avalanche threat, and the weather conditions that make death a day-in, day-out consideration.

It did not escape my notice that, had I waited a year to write about the Meatheads, I might have been with Stall when he died. To those who were with him and to those truly close to him, that may seem a tenuous connection. But it's all the connection I need to remind me that anything is possible. And that Alec Stall died too damn soon.


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