Marolt: Dumbing skiing up to the highest uncommon numerator
December 17, 2015
It's hard to believe the fast-skiing debate rages on. I think it's all about ego. The skiers who are chiming in about the need to enforce speed limits on the mountains are steamed because they believe they are setting the bar for the maximum safe speed on the slopes. If anybody is zooming past them, it's impossible that those people could possibly be skiing under control.
As for the other side sounding off, this debate provides a good opportunity to write a letter to the paper telling everyone what fabulous skiers they are and always under perfect control, of course. If you feel intimidated by them schussing past, your best course of action is to stand aside and learn.
Truthfully, I don't hear too many true stories about fast skiers picking off beginners and intermediates as they bumper-car their ways down the slopes. Lots of people tell stories about near misses, but I think there is a lot of exaggeration in those tales.
For me, the topic of fast skiing provides a crack in the floodgates holding back memories of the old days again. Hey, if it weren't for water under the bridge, we would never know what the high-water mark was, right?
Back in the day, we always worried about the beginner and novice skiers hitting us, not the experts. It's an old habit I haven't broken. And the most dangerous place on the mountain was at the bottom of the lifts — and still is! It's usually icy and rutted at the maze of control fences. There are a lot of people jockeying for position. Standing in line, there is no place to hide from the out-of-control skier crashing through the protective fencing. Be careful here!
Another thing we knew was that you didn't depend on others to keep you safe on the slopes. From day one on skis, our parents and coaches taught us the strategy of picking out safe places to stop on the sides of the slopes, usually behind trees or signs or on the uphill sides of trials where novices wouldn't be skiing and experts would be going slower along the treelines. The safe places to stop are the same for everyone from an Olympic gold medalist to a rank beginner. You need more brains than physical ability or ski-patrol presence to survive a day of skiing.
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If all else fails for the skier terrified of expert skiers practicing flybys on the groomers, head to the moguls. Ironically, by heading to the places treasured by the fleet of P-Tex, you will be perfectly safe from them. In the moguls, everyone of every ability is either completely under control or on their fanny. Yes, you may look like a clown your first few seasons in the bumps, but that's the price you pay for eliminating the chance of anyone blowing past you completely out of control. I guess the real downside to skiing the bumps is that when you get hurt, it's usually nobody else's fault.
The real problem with this sport is that, in chasing the highest bidder, industry experts have pretty much dumbed the sport up to the wealthiest uncommon numerator. Short, shaped skis made from space-age materials, immaculate grooming nightly on almost every trail, boot heaters, internal goggle fans, fur-hooded ski parkas, private on-mountain clubs, guest ambassadors and ski valets have made skiing comfortable for pampered nincompoops who don't have enough grit to play shuffleboard on the deck of a cruise ship on a breezy day. With nothing else to worry about, must the same monotonous safe speed for every single skier be set at the comfort level of the butt-kissed skier, too?
I guess my point is that you have to assume some risk. What am I saying? We have to assume a lot of risk when we hit the slopes! Maybe it will be an out-of-control dork, maybe it will be an unmarked object hidden in the snow, maybe it will be an equipment malfunction, or most likely of all, it will be pilot error, but eventually, if you really get after the sport of skiing, you are going to end up banged up, broken up or scared spitless. Getting up there and confidently defying this inevitability one turn at a time is what makes this wonderful activity worthwhile.
Go ahead; take all measures necessary to guarantee my safety on the hill. I need that excuse to start spending my money and passion on something else.
Roger Marolt misses the days when a day on the ski mountain promised an adventure of some sort or another. Email email@example.com.
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