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A 21-year-old dies on his first day on skis - Page 2

post #31 of 38
Originally Posted by catskills View Post
trekchick good point. This is how it played out in my world also. My personal opinion is the new "ski" equipment changed the rules. The old narrow (non-shaped) skis and ankle boots made it extremely difficult for a first time skier to stay on his/her feet long enough to get going with any speed. The shaped skis and higher boots now make is possible for first time skiers to at least stay on their feet long enough that they can build a high rate of speed. Once they achieve a high rate of speed they either fall down or worse continue to stay on their feet until they hit a stationary object.
Maybe its not the new ski equipement, maybe you just got older and changed your outlook.

Besides, our citizens should have enough common sense to throw themselves to the ground if they realize they are out of control and in danger of hitting something. I know thats scary, but think what people used to put up with 100 years ago just to survive. Technology has made us soft.
post #32 of 38
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
Now try the sentence in the newspaper this way.

"He was on his third landing of the day and thought he was getting the hang of his rental airplane before deciding to hire an instructor"

I've stayed out of this thread, in fact started to post a few days ago and canceled it, because I teach never-ever skiers at Breck and I didn't want to be accused of a conflict of interest nor be misinterpreted as being an official spokesman. But people disagreeing with Yuki's excellent point above have made me feel I have to jump in.

disclaimer: I am not an official representative of Vail Resorts in any way or form and my comments represent my individual personal opinion only. (and for that matter, I was out with an injury during the time this event happened, so everything I know about this is from the articles, and I couldn't have taught him anyway.)

This is a terrible tragedy, and it was horrible to hear when it first happened, and horrible to hear about now following the Summit Daily story on the family.

The NOLA.com Times-Picayune story (scroll down about 1/3 page on this archive of that day's news) from when it happened notes that he hit a tree at the side of the trail, something not mentioned in the recent Summit Daily piece (which after all was a backgrounder on the family and the aftereffects of his death, not their detailed article at the time of the incident.)

No matter how athletic and naturally gifted, is it reasonable to assume that a first-day skier, someone who had never even seen snow until about 8 hours earlier (and thus never grew up comfortable with sensations of sliding on ice/snow, tobogganning/sledding etc.) should be out on skis without a lesson? With or without a helmet.

Breck certainly does sell a lot of first-time lift&lesson and lift&lesson&equipment packages - I know because I often get never-seen-snow skiers from Louisiana, Florida, Texas. The opportunity to get at least a morning-only lesson (or the more common all-day) was there. The cost of buying a lesson&beginner-lifts package is only a very small delta from buying a lift ticket. This type of deal is typically available at most ski areas.

Yet people who've never tried the sport decide to ignore that option. I wonder why people feel that this sport, which involves putting long hard sliding boards about the same length as your body on your feet and using them to slide down a hill while holding sharp pointy things with trees, towers, and other people all around you, doesn't require any training or orientation whatsoever?

To use a slightly less complex-equipment-oriented example than either Yuki's flying or mike_m's 12-year-old in the Ferrarri examples: Is this how people think about sailing? About scuba diving? About other equipment-oriented sports? Yet at many marina sailing centers, you can't rent one of their boats without confirmation that you know sailing basics (I'm thinking of Community Boating in Boston on the Charles, for example). You can't rent scuba gear or get air refills without showing a basic certification, from what I've been told. I'm not saying that skiing (as opposed to ski instruction) absolutely should have some basic certification level (though that's an interesting topic for a different conversation thread perhaps.) But where's the common sense that tells somebody that there are certain skills and basic concepts that need to be learned?

Yeah, helmets are great. I don't ski without one, and I don't teach without one even in never-ever classes, in part to set an example. But being able to avoid the thing that you thus won't hit your head on is even better. I'm glad my car has front and side airbags. But I'm also glad it has responsive handling and performance tires that help me avoid collisions.

A one-day lesson gives the average never-ever enough basic skills, and knowledge of Your Responsibility Code, to make turns, control speed and direction, and have at least some minimal sense of strategy in choosing a line down the hill. For a Rollerblader/natural athlete like this young man, he'd probably be doing a direct-to-parallel progression even if most of the class was working wedge-based turns.

Also terrain choices. If the Daily story is correct, he was under the 5 chair. This is green terrain, but it is not a designated learning/slow zone, and it is not "never-ever"/"never-seen-snow" terrain in my personal (and professional) opinion. The afternoon, or 2nd day, on your own after a first-time never-ever lesson? Sure, then it's totally appropriate terrain if you have learned basic direction and speed control concepts. No, an instructor wouldn't have "thrown his body in front of the kid" (nice snarky comment, zigzag) - but any decent instructor would have given the guest some ideas of what trails would be appropriate for his exploration on his own after the lesson, as well as strategy and line selection. Somebody who has never taken a lesson, and is with other never-evers from never-snows-land, might not realize that not all "green" trails are "learning" trails. In class, you find that out.

Keep in mind - this young man hit a tree because he was (apparently) out of control. Actually, never mind the parenthetical "apparently" - he definitely was out of control, because hitting a tree is a classic definition of being out of control.

What if he'd hit a 5-year-old out skiing with her dad instead of hitting the tree, and killed her while he survived? We'd be seeing posts about how irresponsible the skier was who hit her, calls for his prosecution, and almost certainly a civil suit for negligence brought against the skier for his recklessness in being out of control on skis 8 hours after first seeing snow, without even a half-day lesson.

I'm not dumping on the skier here. My guess is, he and his friends didn't know that lessons were a good idea. From the articles, he sounds like an intelligent and very responsible person. He didn't overtly choose to do something reckless, he just didn't think it was necessary to get instruction (or safety equipment).

Forget the PMTS-vs-PSIA-vs-some_other_system flame wars. Forget parallel vs. wedge progressions. What is needed to make the not-yet-skiing public who chose to try skiing (or riding) realize that there are a set of basic skills and concepts and rules that need to be learned, for everyone's safety and enjoyment? How to we get people to realize that a small investment (compared to the overall cost of a ski week) of time and money in at least one lesson, and yes, in safety equipment like an inexpensive (or rental) helmet, is a good idea?

To trekchick and other's points about not taking lessons the first time: No, I didn't either, years ago. But I also grew up in the North (Northeast in my case), was around snow all my childhood, was familiar and comfortable with the feel of sliding. And my first experiences skiing were with my older brother, who did know something about it and showed me some basics. I think there's a huge difference between this type of "never ever" and the "never seen snow" never-ever. Both should take lessons IMHO (I certainly wish I had - would have had fewer bad habits for instructors at Whistler and ESA and elsewhere to pull apart!), but I really think the guests from non-snow cultures definitely need them, because the entire environment, mode of motion, and concept is foreign.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends. And to all of us who lost a promising young man who might have contributed much to the world.
post #33 of 38
Some people go skiing BECAUSE they enjoy the physical risk. In all honesty, it seems more like riding a bicycle than flying a plane. I don't think lessons or helmets should be "mandated". I went on the blacks on my first day, without a helmet, without a lesson, without getting anyone killed. It was fun! I don't regret in the least. Having grown up with ice and snow, maybe it was different for me, but this guy did play hockey. It was a freak accident, nothing more.
post #34 of 38
Mark, nice piece.

Maggot, I'm in philosophical agreement with you. However, I see no problem with encouraging people to have lessons. If I were requiring someone to have lessons, it would not actually be for their benefit (though, of course, it would be good for them) - it would be for the safety of others.

If I'm ever lucky enough to have kids, and it's looking increasingly unlikely, I want them to skin their knees and take risks too. But they're children ... and other people can hurt them accidentally. I'd rather they fell over and broke an arm, than have some moron who thinks he's bulletproof and knows better running into them.
post #35 of 38
A person from the desert who never had seen water before diving into the shallow end and breaking their neck. No one told me I had to have swimming lessons before going in the water. I really don't see a way to protect people who are this clueless or who unknowingly have so little heed for their own safety.
post #36 of 38
Originally Posted by MAGGOT View Post
Maybe its not the new ski equipement, maybe you just got older and changed your outlook.

Besides, our citizens should have enough common sense to throw themselves to the ground if they realize they are out of control and in danger of hitting something. I know thats scary, but think what people used to put up with 100 years ago just to survive. Technology has made us soft.
Yes older and wiser. With a name like MAGGOT and what you have written I am guessing you are still young. Unfortunately first time skiers especially are not smart enough to throw their bodies to the ground at a high rate of out of control speed on skis. I sometimes ski with a retired NY City police captain. He would tell me things like how many police officers when they hear shots being fired for the very first time shoot their gun before they remove it completely out of the holster. Some end up shooting their own foot. Most officers have no idea how many shots they fired when being fired at. These guys spend 100s of hours training but when their life is on the line not everyone thinks correctly.

Fear is extremely powerful defense mechanism that seems to be built into all of us. Many years ago I was watching my very young son and daughter swim in the east coast Florida ocean. They were both good swimmers on a swim team. The water was rough that day with no life guards on the beach. I was watching them and telling them not to go out beyond their waist. They would say oh dad its ok. I would say listen not beyond your waist. After an hour of swimming I see them waving for help and now I can hear them yelling. I start running to get them but before I got to the water this chilling panic and then thought goes through my entire body. The thought, "You can die if you go there where your kids are." I might have actually slowed down a step or two. I am not sure. But the panic that hit my body was very powerful. Then I said to myself what are you nuts thats my kids out their. After that my body got real calm and I started thinking clearly. Yes I got to them and was able to pull them into shore through the rip tide with the help of another guy. My point here is the panic that I felt was extremely powerful. I am not real proud of the fact I thought about not saving my kids even though it was only a split second.

I would guess that a first time skier going at 30+MPH may feel a similar kind of panic. Besides one of the things they teach in your first ski lesson is to fall down.
post #37 of 38
Skis today turn easier, are easier to learn on and when skied properly go much faster---and can hook up much easier.

One might not have needed driving lessons when cars max speed was 10mph..but as they reach 200mph...would you go that fast without some commentary by a professional. My history---7'0 hickory skis taken off my neighbor's wall (decoration). Put on rubber straps and go straight down until you stop. 1000s of times. Walking back up the hill I just went down. Never thought of turning for 5+ years when we went to our first "resort" Blue Knob Pa...."Hey---people turn? " I was an out of control kid that could easily have killed myself or someone around me...because I knew how to ski---straight and fast. Yes--I needed a lesson...this is why I teach today.

Helmets...I recommend them to everyone at every level. But I also feel bad that some mountains charge $6-10 dollars a day---RENTAL. This is America..people have a right to make money. But doing it on Saftey is not right in my opinion.....its a guilt thing to many parents...Geeze..I just shelled out 80 bucks for my kid to learn to ski...and now I have to shell out another 10 after waiting in line. The helmets at different mountains I have seen are no more than 60 dollars a piece. Does our industry need to profit off this aspect? How about $3.00 ? Or like some mountains...FREE with rentals...which are $25-30 dollars again..but that is another story.
post #38 of 38
His athleticism may not have helped here.

Most people would have crashed before reaching a speed enough to kill them.

I know a couple guys who saw him just as he went over a bump and veered into the trees with a puff of snow. On the chairlift up they saw him being carried down the mountain while having CPR done on him.

Also, next time they write an article they have to take in mind someone has died. Its written like a fantasy story.
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