Skiing with eyes in the back of my head | SummitDaily.com
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Skiing with eyes in the back of my head

Al ShwartzSilverthorne

Firstly, thank you for the feature on ski slope safety in the Dec. 12 Summit Daily. At least it brings this problem to the public eye which should have been evident to all skiers and riders previously.Secondly, my concern for safety on the slopes is that more people should realize the need for this not only for themselves but for others.My personal experience is that I have skied since about 1950. I have skied most of the U.S. areas – New England (where I began in Stowe, Vt.), California, Utah, etc. and spent years skiing in Europe including France, Switzerland, Austria, etc. I am an expert skier able to ski just about every type of hill under all types of conditions. I had always felt I skied safely, obeying the “rules” of the road” with concern for others. During the first 50 years of skiing the worst injury I had was a sprained thumb. In March 2000 at Copper Mountain, I was hit by an out-of-control skier near the end of Skid Row just below a slow sign which was preceded by about 50 yards by another slow sign. This person hit me so hard that I was propelled about 5 feet in the air before landing on the snow. This person did not stop and, according to accounts, reached the bottom (only about 100 yards farther to the Super Bee) jumped out of his skis, picked them up and disappeared.The ski patrol (God bless them) was called, four patrollers came and gave me the proper care and transported me to the clinic. My injuries: total hip replacement which was done in 1985 and had functioned perfectly – no pain or restriction – was broken. My femur was shattered in about 12 pieces. The surgery took more than 12 hours to put the whole leg back so that it would work. This required a new prosthesis which now extended from the hip joint all the way to the knee. The femur, being in pieces was rebuilt using some new bone and four steel bands (like hose clamps) to hold everything in place – actually, it was a jigsaw puzzle.The surgery took so long that my body started to refuse to function. Abdominal surgery was necessary to get the “plumbing” working again.My condition was so poor that they called in the family from both coasts. After six weeks I was discharged – sort of in one piece, but now bionic. I was able to resume skiing in December of that year. This is a long story to bring to mind the trauma that a ski accident can bring not only to a person, but to his or her family and friends.I do not feel that enough is being done at any ski area that I go to to control speed and careless skiing. I do not feel that in many cases a warning is enough to dissuade careless skiers and riders from being inconsiderate. I feel that the penalty of pulling a pass, be it one day, a week or for the season is what is called for.The ski-area management should not feel it will lose business because of a pulled ski pass. This kind of a person they can really do without. Ski areas should have posters with a “yellow jacket” advising that he or she can pull your pass.Snowboarders are undoubtedly the worst violators. Where there are areas with snowboard parks, the problem is the snowboarder will zoom to the top of the park and shoot out at the bottom.I think Breckenridge and Keystone chief operating officer Roger McCarthy was wrong when he said that density is not a factor in ski accidents.I am still skiing at age 80, but some of the fun is gone because I now ski with eyes in the back of my head in fear of another incident.


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