The Snow Tiger

The Snow Tiger
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Action thriller by the classic adventure writer set in New Zealand.Fifty-four people died in the avalanche that ripped apart a small New Zealand mining town. But the enquiry which follows unleashes more destructive power than the snowfall. As the survivors tell their stories, they reveal a community so divided that all warnings of danger went unheeded. At the centre of the storm is Ian Ballard, whose life depends upon being able to clear his name…


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The Snow Tiger

HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

First published in Great Britain by Collins 1975

Copyright © Brockhurst Publications 1975

Cover layout design Richard Augustus © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2017

Desmond Bagley asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

Source ISBN: 9780008211271

Ebook Edition © JULY 2017 ISBN: 9780008211288 Version: 2017-06-19

To JOAN, on her birthday. I said I would and I did.

Snow is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing – it is a tiger in lamb’s clothing.

Matthias Zdarsky

Absence of body is preferable to presence of mind.


It was not a big avalanche, but then, it did not need to be very big to kill a man, and it was only because of Mike McGill’s insistence on the Oertel cord that Ballard survived. Just as a man may survive in an ocean with the proper equipment and yet drown in a foot of water, so Ballard may have perished in a minor slippage that would have gone unrecorded even in avalanche-conscious Switzerland.

McGill was a good skier, as might be expected considering his profession, and he had taken the novice under his wing.

They had met in the ski lodge during an après-ski session and had taken an immediate liking to each other. Although they were the same age McGill appeared to be the older man, possibly because of his more varied life, but he became interested because Ballard had much to teach of areas other than snow and ice. They complemented each other, which is not an uncommon basis for friendship among men.

One morning McGill proposed something new. ‘We’ve got to get you off the piste,’ he said. ‘And on to soft snow. There’s nothing like cutting a first track.’

‘Isn’t it more difficult than on the piste?’ queried Ballard.

McGill shook his head decisively. ‘A beginner’s myth. Turning is not quite as easy, but traversing is a cinch. You’ll like it. Let’s look at the map.’

They went up by the chair-lift, but instead of going down by the piste they struck off to the south, crossing a level plateau. After half an hour they arrived at the top of the clear slope which McGill had chosen, following local advice. He stopped, resting on his sticks, while he surveyed the slope. ‘It looks all right, but we won’t take chances. Here’s where we put our tails on.’

He unzipped a pocket of his anorak and produced a bundle of red cord which he separated into two coils, one of which he handed to Ballard. ‘Tie one end round your waist.’

‘What for?’

‘It’s an Oertel cord – a simple device which has saved a hell of a lot of lives. If there’s an avalanche and you get buried there’ll be a bit of that red cord showing on the surface to show where you are so you can be dug out fast.’

Ballard looked down the slope. ‘Is there likely to be an avalanche?’

‘Not that I know of,’ said McGill cheerfully, knotting the cord around his waist.

‘I’ve never seen anyone else wearing these.’

‘You’ve only been on the piste.’ McGill noted Ballard’s hesitancy. ‘A lot of guys don’t wear cords because they think it makes them look damn fools. Who wants to go down a slope wearing a red tail? they say. To my mind they’re damn fools for not wearing them.’

‘But avalanches!’ said Ballard.

‘Look,’ said McGill patiently, and pointed down the slope. ‘If I thought there was a serious avalanche risk down there we wouldn’t be going down at all. I checked on the snow reports before we left and it’s probably as safe as the nursery slopes. But any snow on any slope can be dangerous – and it doesn’t have to be in Switzerland; people have been caught in avalanches on the South Downs in England. The cord is just a precaution, that’s all.’

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