Larry Stanier has made a career out of taking calculated risks

Larry Stanier relaxes in an oversized chair and nonchalantly speaks about the time he helped rescue two kids off the side of a mountain.

Not the worst he’s seen, he says, but with potential hypothermia setting in and them hanging from harnesses, it felt pretty good to get those guys.

To most this sounds like a script out of a movie. But to Stanier, a mountain guide and avalanche expert, this is the simple reality of his day job.

Stanier is personable; he easily laughs, and his humility in what he’s accomplished is, alone, something to admire. One gets the feeling while speaking with him that he’s hyper-aware of his surroundings at all times.

Stanier has made assessing risks a full-time job and has become exceptionally good at it. He’s guided people of all walks of life all over the world as far away as Nepal, the Indian Garhwal Himalayas, Baffin Island and Japan.

Larry Stanier’s story. Produced by Kyla Bodley

The biggest risk he faces out there is the uncertainty of his environment — like avalanches and rock falls.

“Especially in this mountain range (the Rocky Mountains),” he says. “They are really fractured. Falling rock is the great renewable resource. Every year there is a new crop of it. If we could harness falling rock as a form of energy, we would be laughing.”

Stanier says that with all the risk associated with it, the uncertainty is what keeps him interested.

He has been guiding and studying avalanches for 30-odd years and the spatial variability still perplexes and fascinates him.

He says he’s compelled by how the terrain can be completely benign on one day and on other days, you can be tiptoeing around, flirting with an environment that can be as unpredictable as it can be unthreatening.

How Stanier lives his life can be construed as a metaphor — always take the road less travelled — with the simple meaning of learning to take risks.

Simon Hudy, a local Calgary doctor and avid back-country skier and hiker, agrees. He chose Stanier to guide him this past summer because Stanier came highly regarded and he wanted to attempt a route very few had gone before.

Hudy faces risks day to day as a doctor — misdiagnose a patient, or have an off day, and you can risk a life. To him, life is, and the mountains are, all about risk management. And at the end, the reward far outweighs the risk as, “you have done something that a lot of people can’t, or won’t (do), but at the same time, you are competing against yourself, your own fears, your own physical prowess, your own mindset, your own physical limitations — it is the ultimate one-on-one.”

kbodley@cjournal.ca