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Column: Re-asserting the rules of etiquette on the ski hill
By Paul Picard
Just a little note for the motivation of this column:
I was the 67-year-old skier who got lost on Grey Mountain and ended up spending the night sitting on his skis before successfully walking to the Big Sheep Road near kilometer 10 where I was picked up by a helicopter.
That extremely long night was a very special experience where I could not tell if I would survive or not. I was lucky enough that my body, through extensive shivering, could stay at an acceptable temperature during the night, and there was enough energy left in the morning to allow me to scramble through to the Big Sheep Road.
The fact of having my ski boots on for about 30 consecutive hours resulted in quite a sore spot on my left ankle. All the scrambling under, over and through obstacles did not help my arthritic knees.
I find it very ironic that, when I first tried skiing again, within 30 seconds I ended up being injured more seriously than what I suffered through that 30-hour ordeal.
Skiing is a wonderful sport. It involves many people sliding in different directions on a slippery surface.
There are some universally recognized rules to maximize the enjoyment and minimize the risks of injuries through the interaction of all those skiers.
These basics rules are often printed on lift tickets. Part of the education of skiers involves understanding those basic rules that can be called alpine (skier or boarder) safety code. They are often referred to as responsibility code or etiquette.
I don’t think that the word etiquette is a strong enough word. Often we associate etiquette to how we should use our knife in a restaurant. It is often just a matter of preference if we put it on the side of the plate between usage or not.
However, the safety rule goes much further. The safety rule means that we don’t want to harm our neighbour. We should not plant our knife in our neighbour's body.
Those rules are presented in a variety of ways and often with different emphasis, however, the main rule that is always present and is considered the most important: People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
It is easy to understand that the skier ahead of you does not have some rear view mirror and that she/he should concentrate on looking where he/she is going for their own safety and the safety of the skiers below.
The skier from behind sees the whole situation and can take the necessary corrections even if it involves changing their desired path or speed.
After a few days off because of ankle problems I wanted to try my aching joints. I did not even make it to Mother Lode. While doing gentle turns on the slope towards the chair once I passed Main Run, I was hit with such violence that I was suddenly airborne without skis.
The projectile that hit me was further down the hill. He was a mature person, with a season’s pass. He was polite enough to say his name when asked (however, I won’t divulge it not to embarrass him).
The scariest part is that this mature person could not realize that it was his responsibility to avoid me. He sought all kinds of mitigating factors as he said "our skis barely clipped."
The factors: I was doing gentle turns at a relatively low speed; It was not a bullet attacking him at an angle; I was well below him; I was very visible; I have a very bright green jacket so that my wife who is legally blind can follow me more easily; There was probably nobody else on the slope around us.
The intensity of the contact: I weight 185 pounds and I was projected down the hill right out of my bindings; Through my jacket and two sweaters the skin was scraped off my left forearm near the elbow for a length of about 10 centimetres.
The impact continued to my ribcage with the result that I won’t be able to sleep on that side for quite a while and my movement is limited. I feel very fortunate that my left forearm absorbed much of the impact (probably his ski pole) otherwise I might have had a perforated lung. Imagine the same impact on a less visible young kid.
What is the scariest is that this skier never learned anything from that experience. Many parents are thinking twice about hockey because of the physical dangers. I know many people who are thinking twice about skiing because of the numerous skiers like the one who did hit me.
Paul Picard is a Rossland resident.