Bill Way: Solutions for our unsafe slopes |

Bill Way: Solutions for our unsafe slopes

Bill Way

Your Dec. 26 article (“Sharing the Slopes”) really hit home. But I’d like to take things a step further by proposing some “viable” solutions which could actually make a difference. You were right on point as far as you took the subject. But frankly, more can be done. And more must be done. I hope you’ll consider a follow up story which elaborates on the following suggestions:

The unsafe and discourteous skier/rider behaviors you mentioned have taken much of the fun out of the sport for me and others. And even more importantly, while this has always been a relatively risky sport, it has become increasingly dangerous to a completely unacceptable level (in spite of the Skier Safety Act). “Improved” lift operations dump so many people on the slopes that we now often see very crowded conditions, and this is made even worse when we have light snowfall and only 20-50 percent of the trails open.

Last week at Breckenridge I observed a rider disregard several large yellow slow zone signs and proceed at very high speed over a lip and into a blind area, all to catch some air. His transgression injured both him and a completely innocent skier when he landed directly on top of him. This week at Keystone I saw a skier race around a little 3-year-old girl like she was a slalom pole, cutting her off from her dad and knocking her down merely from the stress induced. Thankfully, she was OK … this time. My first run of the season I was knocked down from behind by a rider who was going too fast, too close, and in poor control. I see far to much of this. Enough!

I submit that “peer patrol” and “peer pressure” are very viable remedies. We need to start speaking up … polite but firm. We need to program the ski patrol’s number into our cell phones and report offenders just as we report drunk drivers on our roadways. Then insist that appropriate action be taken. The offenders simply need to be either retrained or removed from our midst. Period.

Ski and safety patrol really need to be doing a better job of staking out slow zones and hazardous areas. More formal warnings need to be made, and more passes need to be pulled. According to the patrol folks I’ve talked with, most of the problematic people are repeat offenders. They need to be “inconvenienced” with a pulled pass, required to take a safety class, a fine, or whatever works. These remedies already exist and are sorely under-utilized. Kudos to Copper Mountain for their impressive efforts in this regard.

Sking/riding is not that much different than driving or boating in several respects. You are not allowed to drive/boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol and our sport is no different. If you want to partake in those activities, do so at the appropriate time and place. Skiers/riders who appear to be doing so under the influence should be pulled over and tested just as are drivers/boaters. And if they fail the test they should be ejected and fined (it not arrested). No laws would have to be changed as area operators can implement this under civil and contract law, under the terms of the passes they issue.

Furthermore, if you are seen driving a car while listening to music with headphones you will be pulled over and ticketed. For safety reasons we need to be able to hear traffic sounds. The same goes for ski/ride sounds: When you miss the sound of shredding snow as someone makes a close, panicked turn … or yells out in alarm (the equivalent of a honking car horn) you put yourself or others in jeopardy. Ipods can be reasonably safe when the volume is kept low, but the problem is that not all do. If I can hear the music coming out of your iPod while I’m standing next to you … it’s too loud.

We can not and should not try and regulate everything. But we do have license laws and proficiency requirements for lots of potentially dangerous activities. For example, try and rent a sailboat from the Frisco or Dillon marinas and you’ll be faced with a written and verbal test (unless you have a sailing certification). In my opinion area operators have been negligent about posting the Skier Safety Act as well as additional “common sense” policies regarding safety and courtesy. In addition, these laws and policies could be provided in writing and people could be required pass a written test before being issued a lift ticket or season pass… or at least attest to having read them.

There is simply no excuse for the increasingly unpleasant and unsafe conditions on our slopes. There are lots of viable, workable solutions and I suggest that those of us who care start taking a more proactive stance. We, as individuals, can make a difference.

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