Lightweight and often airborne, expatriate skier Dan Loutrel, 31, acquired the nickname Birdo in his early 20s. A slight, five-foot, 10-inch guy with a neck beard, a mess of brown hair, and a regular slouch, Dan bears resemblance to Shaggy of Scooby-Doo. He grew up cross-country skiing in New England. After discovering alpine touring in the ’90s, he moved to mountains in Vermont, California, and Colorado. He found their escarpments short. Seeking ever bigger vert, Dan wound up in Andermatt in the winter of 2003–04.
I supposedly met Dan in Andermatt six years ago. At the time, I’d horribly wrenched my spine and a Swiss military doctor had stuffed me with morphine. I don’t remember shit about Dan. To me, he’s a new, 2011 acquaintance—a slightly bony dude in a navy TGR jersey, hair spilling over a Euro-bright, blue-and-pink headband, with a good story about being an upstart in the cradle of skiing.
We run into him after bailing on the Gemsstock our first day in Andermatt. We’d tried to ski until the final bell, but the slopes all sit well above timberline, with zero trees to give perspective. There was no visibility, only New England clam chowder. Save for the fluorescent orange poles erected for whiteouts, we couldn’t see a thing. Vertigo struck all of us. We fell down on harmless flats, convinced that up was down.