Letter: Lazy reporting
December 9, 2016
I read with bemusement Rick Carroll's half-assed, poorly researched, yellow journalism hit piece on my close friend Mike Sura titled "Snowmass man hit with suit alleging dangerous skiing" (Dec. 7). Rick failed to interview any witnesses, including Mike himself, and he failed to attempt to access the ski patrol incident report. Rick simply took the lawsuit at face value.
I have the great fortune to ski with Mike 40 to 50 days per year. Mike has 67 years of skiing experience and is one of the most elegant skiers I know. While our group of friends generally skis relatively fast, Mike is known for picking safe, fun, conservative ski lines. Mike has lived in Snowmass Village for 36 years and is known as a terrific ambassador for our community in dealing with our visitors from around the globe.
On the morning of April 7, 2016, Mike and two of our mutual friends were skiing laps on Mick's Gully. I understand that they had not seen a single other skier on that side of the Big Burn all morning. They had planned to play golf that afternoon (with me), and decided to take one final trip down Mick's. Unfortunately, Mike took the skier's left line over the ridge just above the final pitch. Directly below him, and out of site to oncoming skiers, a paraplegic gentleman had fallen, face downhill. Three guides were assisting the fellow, trying to get him upright. He was clearly skiing on a pitch that was far beyond his ability level.
Mike hit one of the skis on the bucket, as the skis were facing uphill. He slid for more than 100 yards and suffered a broken ankle. He has undergone two surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy. The Snowmass Ski Patrol incident report (which I have read) listed Mike as the only injury in that accident. Mike was the only skier evacuated by the ski patrol.
There are several mountain awareness lessons to be learned from this tragic event. First, read the back of your pass at least once per year. Under Colorado law, for better or worse, the uphill skier is nearly always at fault in the event of an accident. Secondly, never stop below a ridge line, out of the site of oncoming skiers. Never. If you find yourself in a similar situation as the guides and paraplegic skier were in, it is wise to post someone above you on the ridgeline to warn oncoming skiers of the crash below. Third, while I encourage skiers to ski next-level terrain with their buddies to help improve their skills, I believe it is reckless to expose our most vulnerable guests to terrain that is clearly, far and away, above their capabilities. Doing so puts all of us at risk
Finally, I have interacted with Rick Carroll for the better part of 20 years, at both local papers, and have found him to be a fair editor. But placing a ridiculously delightful, quarter-page picture of two guides assisting a paraplegic skier down a 5-degree pitch, adjacent to Rick's hit piece on Mike, was a complete and utter misrepresentation of the situation at hand. Reporting this story accurately did not require the services of Woodward and Berstein.
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If Rick is getting too lazy to do actual investigative reporting, maybe he should consider assigning such work to junior scribes with stronger work ethics. Or, maybe The Aspen Times should start a court report section wherein they simply parrot unfounded, unconfirmed, hearsay, lifted-off of complaints filed in U.S. District Courts by mere observers of accidents.