Letter: ‘Self-policing’ doesn’t work

While Ajax’s rugged terrain attracts many expert skiers, Sue Kern and others are simply wrong when they call it “an expert mountain” (“Safety on the mountain starts with you,” Letters to the editor, The Aspen Times, Dec. 10). I ski intermediate and black runs as well as the occasional double blacks on Ajax, but l am not an expert skier. I’m simply an ordinary, competent skier. Straightlining hotshots scare me in close quarters. Does that mean I don’t belong there because Ajax is for experts? Not hardly!

Forty-eight percent of Ajax’s terrain is rated intermediate. Only 26 percent is rated “experts only.” Many of our visitors are good intermediate skiers. They and locals like me inevitably mix with the self-declared experts, and why not? Once you are out of your snowplow, you ought to be able to ski beautiful Ajax. The experts do not and should not own it. In fact, if Ajax were limited to experts and near experts, I doubt Aspen Skiing Co. could afford to keep it open.

That said, those who love speed deserve to enjoy skiing, too, and straightlining should be allowed where safe. But in the narrow confines of Spar Gulch, around Kleenex Corner and on Little Nell, where all ski and stop within a relatively small area? In places like that, straightliners should have their passes pulled for increasing periods of time for each infraction, hopefully before they seriously injure or kill someone. Some groomed slopes, however, could be marked as “Fast skiing permitted. Enter at your own risk.” Which slopes and how many is for management and the ski patrol to determine, but certainly those who want the thrill of speed on prepared snow should have places to experience it. They should not, however, be the ones to decide when and where it is safe. “Self-policing” on the slopes is a naive idea that leaves everyone at unnecessary risk. It makes little more sense than automobile operators determining on an individual basis the maximum safe speed on any road at any time.

Ron Kokish