Originally Posted by Yuki
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.