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Skiing: safety, limits, and fear.

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
Reading the posts about recent fatalities, I noticed folks started discussing the risk vs reward benefits of skiing. Got me thinking about my own personal comfort limits and approach to skiing.

Just curious, setting ego asside(hard to find on internet forums) and being honest with yourself, what are your limits where you say to yourself, "Too unsafe for me?"

IMO, every skier has a point where they see the risk outweigh the reward. Everyone has a different level of comfort and a point where they will back down from something they see as a bit too challenging and risky for their tastes -- sane and responsibile skiers at least.

I usually concentrate on things I control and simply don't think about injury, unless of course I am doing something I know I shouldn't be.

For me, skiing is fun, and part of what makes skiing fulfilling is the sense of accomplishment. Challenging oneself with the goal of advancement in mind is how we all learn and progress. There comes a point, however, where the risks of the challenge no longer are worth it to the individual. This is not to say learning and advancement stops -- it's just directed somewhere else.

A safe skier is one who will challenge himself for the right reasons and under the conditions appropriate for ones ability and desires. Accepting a challenge simply to impress others, or engaging in an activity where fear dominaites your thoughts, or simply going forward knowing the challenge has a large chance of failure and injury to yourself or someone else is neither brave nor safe -- it's simply stupid.

I don't worry about getting hurt, but do take some precautions and avoid things I know are beyond my ability, or even desire to ski-- places where I would be concentrating more on getting hurt than on skiing.

For me, my desires and comfort zone are limited by a fear of heights -- looking down a gnarly chute, staring down Corbett's with that big fat rock hanging out there or looking at the steep double fall line scattered with mouls and rocks on Goat at Stowe. To me, these things don't represent fun, they represent danger and fear. Places for me where I say, "All I have to do is catch an edge and..."

Such places are the fear-induced line I never cross -- places where my thoughts of the consquences of mishap would dominate my thoughts and outweigh any gain. When I think about it, I simply have no desire to cross that line. For me, that particular danger line is not something to be challenged, just something to best be left allone.

It's something that goes beyond coaching or skill ---I simply have no desire to ski these things.
post #2 of 53

fear equal distraction equal disaster

think along these lines sometimes too. What I came to is that fear is a distraction, it totally undermines focus and concentration. It is like running an irrelevant thought line in your head when you need desperately to stay on task.
Your concept of appropriate motivation is also right on.
post #3 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
think along these lines sometimes too. What I came to is that fear is a distraction, it totally undermines focus and concentration. It is like running an irrelevant thought line in your head when you need desperately to stay on task.
Your concept of appropriate motivation is also right on.
Aggreed, fear can be a distraction to be mastered, up to a point. This point is determined by one's goals, abilities, and desires.

I would not reccomend an intermediate ski Corbett's, even if they had the desire too. Likewise, I would not reccomend someone skiing Corbet's if they had the requiste skill but not the motivation or desire and just hit it because their buddies went down. The appropriate term is, 'tempting fate.'

IMO, the menatlity of 'No Fear' is the last thing the skiing public should take with them out on the slopes.

I think the appropriate question one should ask when atempting something new with a more than average danger factor is, "Why do you want to do this?. Do you really want to do this? "

Personally, my comfort zone ends where I simply am not comfortable with the consequences of a fall. I can either keep working, so my comfort in these areas is increased and my chances of falling are significantly reduced, or simply say, "regardless, the consequences for mishaps in this area are just too great for my tastes."

Fear is nature's way of telling us, "Perhaps you should not be doing this." When should one listen to this warning or simply put it asside and carry on? That's really the heart of my post and everyone has a different answer to that question.

It depends to a great part on the goals they have set for themselves and the risks they are willing to take. I guess what I was saying is, I am not a high-risk skier and have no desire to be one. Its all relative, however. What I term high risk may be low risk to others.

We should always keep pushing ourselves. Where and when is the question. Ego can be just as dangerous as being overcome with fear IMO.
post #4 of 53
I didn't enjoy skiing on Tuesday as much as I might have, during the early part of the day when I was afraid of being hit by one of the many out of control skiers and boarders; on the other hand, none of them managed to hit me, because of my cramping, knotted up, cautious moves.
I'm not afraid of anything, skiing alone. It's other people who scare me.
I know, I should get out of here and ski someplace with room, out west. Someday, someway.
post #5 of 53
I don't ski much anymore that you would consider dangerous but have in the past skiied quite a bit of dangerous terrain. I've stared down steeps that make places like Goat and even Corbetts seem pretty pale. My feeling is that fear is not something to ignore but instead a thing to work around. So much of what limits us is in the mind only but it isn't wise to ignore the fear and attempt to defy it since that state of mind can work its effect upon our skiing skills. A simplistic example would be the way an inexperienced skier tends to lean back or into the hill in a self defeating response to the perception of danger. There is no substitute for developing an objective familiarity with the hazards. Climbing up the slope you are going to ski, for example, provides you with good information as to the angle of the terrain and the snow conditions. Developing your skills in terrain which is similar in pitch for example but devoid of the hazards is another useful technique. An extremely steep pitch with a gentle and unencumbered run-out, for example, can provide you with the knowledge that what you are looking at is within your ability to ski it. I've looked down into a steepchute and made a practice of visualizing just how I was going to make my first turn before jumping off. In time you will find yourself contemplating a run that has everyone terrified but with you personally infused with the conviction that it is well within your ability even as you are aware of the hazards. Your knowledge of the hazards becomes an asset to your skills. You will ace the run with applomb and receive the admiring compliments of people convinced you have just demonstrated tremendous courage with the secret knowledge that your accomplishment has been a demostration of skill rather than valor. Fear tends to evaporate in such circumstances to be replaced instead with an appreciation of the dangers which do exist.
post #6 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post
I don't ski much anymore that you would consider dangerous but have in the past skiied quite a bit of dangerous terrain. I've stared down steeps that make places like Goat and even Corbetts seem pretty pale. My feeling is that fear is not something to ignore but instead a thing to work around. So much of what limits us is in the mind only but it isn't wise to ignore the fear and attempt to defy it since that state of mind can work its effect upon our skiing skills. A simplistic example would be the way an inexperienced skier tends to lean back or into the hill in a self defeating response to the perception of danger. There is no substitute for developing an objective familiarity with the hazards. Climbing up the slope you are going to ski, for example, provides you with good information as to the angle of the terrain and the snow conditions. Developing your skills in terrain which is similar in pitch for example but devoid of the hazards is another useful technique. An extremely steep pitch with a gentle and unencumbered run-out, for example, can provide you with the knowledge that what you are looking at is within your ability to ski it. I've looked down into a steepchute and made a practice of visualizing just how I was going to make my first turn before jumping off. In time you will find yourself contemplating a run that has everyone terrified but with you personally infused with the conviction that it is well within your ability even as you are aware of the hazards. Your knowledge of the hazards becomes an asset to your skills. You will ace the run with applomb and receive the admiring compliments of people convinced you have just demonstrated tremendous courage with the secret knowledge that your accomplishment has been a demostration of skill rather than valor. Fear tends to evaporate in such circumstances to be replaced instead with an appreciation of the dangers which do exist.
Good points.

For me, I think my limitations are largely about fear of heights and the vertigo I get when looking down a steep chute. I have no problems if its a wide open bowl. Narrow chutes, however, especially strewn with rocks or trees, just freak me out and give me the heeby jeebys. I have no problem admitting to my fear in this area. I simply avoid them and ski to more open areas. I always check the maps to know where I am going as well, so as not to get cliffed out.
post #7 of 53
I have been labeled TrekChick-en for a reason.
I have a sense of adventure, but also a fear switch that holds me back.

I often wonder if the sense of excitement I get from skiing will be lessened if I lose the fear factor.
post #8 of 53
Fear is definitely a limiting factor for me, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing though. Fear is what keeps me from getting hurt.The things that scare me are going for my 360 in the park, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not ready for that yet and would get hurt. I'm scared of going out in the backcountry on high avalanche danger days because I don't want to get caught in a slide.

I still rip, my switch 180's are getting better, and I do get in a fair amount of BC skiing, I even go out on days that most of my friends won't. I am acutely aware of the dangers though, if I'm gonna ski a sketchy slope, I'll hike up it to get an idea of the snow composition and know what I'm going to be seeing when I come down, and there are times that I've turned around because it's "too dangerous" in my mind.

I think the thing is that "too dangerous" is different for different people. Some of my friends hit the back country, but only when the avy danger is non-existent. Some of my friends won't hit jumps at all even though they're capable. Some of my friends hit jumps that I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with, it just depends on your abilities, your confidence in your abilities, and your level of comfort with danger. How close to the edge of a cliff do you get? do you stay behind the guard rail? do you sit on the edge and dangle your legs? or are you a base jumper?
post #9 of 53
I think fear is the main reason I ski. Overcoming it, that is. I like to remove self-doubt from my mind through doing. To disprove that natural feeling that "You can't do this" - just overcoming aprehension & doubt by absolutely shredding a line down a steep pitch in deep snow, or a tight tree run... If you weren't at least a little bit scared, would it be fun? Fear distracts you from all that other crap that has been bothering you all week by necessity- it crystalizes your mental focus and forces you to concentrate on the task at hand if only out of self-preservation. Without fear, there would be no rush. That doesn't mean you have to be terrified of what you're doing, it just means that riding that thin line between cruising down an unbroken open bowl and face planting is both a challenge and a privelege I am very thankful for the ability to do it. Your body knows it shouldn't be doing 25mph through the trees, but doing it just feels so damn good, doesn't it?

Courage is your ability to overcome fear and achieve your goals in its presence. It isn't necessarily not being scared, it's harnessing that fear and making it your bitch.
post #10 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by MojoMan View Post
IMO, every skier has a point where they see the risk outweigh the reward.
Typically multiple times during a normal ski day for me. I'm always looking and exploring for stuff to challenge my abilities. If I don't feel confident in either my abilities or the conditions, I won't take the risk.
post #11 of 53
That little taste of fear (just a taste, not full blown terror) is part of the appeal of skiing difficult terrain.

It makes me wonder, though, if getting better might be a bad strategy. If you get confident enough, you have to start skiing stuff that is actually dangerous, rather than just feeling that way.
post #12 of 53
The fear is a big part of the fun of skiing to me. I enjoy pushing my limits and trying new things. That being said, there are times when the risk out weighs the benefit. I'm holding back this season for 2 reasons.

1. I'm still gimped from a shoulder injury last season
2. My paramedic class, if I get hurt, I can't complete the clinical portion. The class is a bitch, and I absolutely do not want to take it again. Obviously, I cannot prevent any chance of injury, like has been said, shit happens. But I can take every reasonable precaution and not push my limits to where I am more likely to get hurt.

I don't think I'll be skiing off the back side of South Peak at the 'fae this season. It's about a 45 degree slope, gets rather 'buttery' and the open slope ends in tight trees. The steep part is only good for 5 or 6 turns, but the consequence of holding back my career is far greater than the rush of the run.

Likewise, I don't hit the large jumps as much.

In my mind I tend to rationalize risks by comparing them to my job. (firefighter). It's a pretty dangerous job, but we take many steps to make it as safe as possible. I do the same with my hobbies.
post #13 of 53
Last year included some steep & deep conditions that gave me pause. I also spent a day Cat skiing near Steamboat, about 70% of that was in thick trees. I even skied in a moving slab for about 20 yards at Alta, that was weird.

I consider myself to be cautious. I will spend extra time looking over a new run that is difficult. I find that if I can pick a line that makes sense, I can ski with confidence.

It's a calculated risk that I enjoy.

Michael
post #14 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post
I have been labeled TrekChick-en for a reason.
I have a sense of adventure, but also a fear switch that holds me back.

I often wonder if the sense of excitement I get from skiing will be lessened if I lose the fear factor.

Good point.

I like the corollary MNF offered up too..

You seek out the adrenelin rush and eventually get acclimated to the current levels. You then eventually need to get into the 'real' dangerous stuff to get the same fix. At that point, the price you have to pay for mishaps is just too costly, at least for me.

That being said, I rarely if ever have found lack of a suitable rush for my tastes, however low key and boring others might find it -- skiing a steep run faster than I am normally comfortable with or simply hitting the mogul runs when they are iced over. Small potatos for many skiers here no doubt, but for me, there is always excitement to be had somewhere without hucking cliffs or ripping gnarly chutes.
post #15 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by WILDCAT View Post
Last year included some steep & deep conditions that gave me pause. I also spent a day Cat skiing near Steamboat, about 70% of that was in thick trees. I even skied in a moving slab for about 20 yards at Alta, that was weird.

I consider myself to be cautious. I will spend extra time looking over a new run that is difficult. I find that if I can pick a line that makes sense, I can ski with confidence.

It's a calculated risk that I enjoy.

Michael
Wow,

Skiing a moving slab sounds pretty adrenelin inducing
post #16 of 53
I get enough adrenalin rush by simply skiing. So I don't really need to heighten the fear factor to get that rush.

Putting my boots on will get it going and stepping into the binding will get it going pretty well. The rest of the day is just one big "high".

Fear gets in the way of enjoying that rush.
post #17 of 53
I have never skied anything I thought I could not ski safely. Of course my estimate of my abilities was always much higher than my abilities actually were. Still my mantra would be if in doubt don't. Same applies to deciding whether or not to pass that camper on the twisty road. If you have any doubt about your ability to do something, don't do it.

I have often decided to just ski relatively slowly or quit early instead of ripping full tilt. I haven't really been faced with a decision of whether or not to ski a particular run, these last few years, as anything within my reach (Ontario Canada, Tremblant, Jay, etcetera) is fairly easy for me.

When that little voice inside your head starts whispering that you are not up to par and maybe you should take it easy, you had better listen. The one day I didn't listen, I ended up going for a 110 mph ride on my back through some rather nasty potholes. That hurt.
post #18 of 53
i love to go fast, but there are times when i cant just bomb groomers because i know at the speed, if i catch and edge or hit something, im gonna go down hard.

As for terrain, well skiing steeps or pow, i dont think twice most of the time. im always cautious on ice and thin cover though.

And as for jumps and cliffs, well i mean, i dont ski cliffs enough to be used to them, but i would love to asap, but i need some pow. and terrain parks, well i mean, im weird about jumps, i need to get used to them, but its though, i dont wanna fall. i hadent slid a box in a couple months, and yesterday there was a long flat box calling my name. it was pretty high off the ground though, and i just thought it wasnt worth it. maybe i wouldnt be able to slide it like i was, maybe i needed to get back in the groove, so i passed.
post #19 of 53
Yep. I like MDF's description of a "little taste of fear" rather than full blown terror. I like upping the ante in little doses rather than big leaps. That being said, I'm always trying to improve and challenge myself whether it's holding a faster tighter line in a race course or skiing a bump run at a quicker pace.

At age 56 I know if I screw up and go down, I really hurt the next day or two!
post #20 of 53
If I am feeling on my game and the snow is good, thats the green light to push it. I don't do things that I think are stupid. To me that usually means hitting a line before it is ready or skiing hard when I am not feeling on my game. Thats like asking to get hurt.

Still push is a relative term. I don't think any of the stuff I am trying to work on is really dangerous.
post #21 of 53
A cousin of mine spent a lot of time doing point in Nam. He said once that if you weren't afraid you were a danger to yourself and everyone around you. And if you were too afraid, ditto.

For skiing, I'd say something like that. There's a sweet spot for fear, when the adrenaline gives you focus and power. I'm different than most here, actually like serious steeps, ideally with powder, and ideally ending in trees. But don't necessarily seek serious speed, and not into edge of control stuff that'll make some folks joyous. Yeah, realize all these sometimes go together , but if I can I tend to ski challenging terrain methodically. The high is in channeling my adrenaline, making it through with some grace. Serious control freak here, I guess.
post #22 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by MojoMan View Post
Wow,

Skiing a moving slab sounds pretty adrenelin inducing
It was over by the time I figured out what was happening. about 20 inches had fallen on wind pack. I was on a very short steep section, imagine a slab about the size of a parking spot moving about 50 feet.

Michael
post #23 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by WILDCAT View Post
It was over by the time I figured out what was happening. about 20 inches had fallen on wind pack. I was on a very short steep section, imagine a slab about the size of a parking spot moving about 50 feet.

Michael
Oddly enough I had something similar happen to me at Alta, years ago. A slab under me began moving and I straddled a good sized tree and picked my feet up as the slope broke up all around me. It was a bit unusual as I had some warning. A small snow slide preceded the breakup but it was something to see all those refrigerator sized slabs moving down the slope. In this case the slabs broke up as they gathered momentum and turned into quite an avalanche below us. I believe I was too stupid at the time to be frightened.
post #24 of 53
a good rule of thumb...if it looks fun, go to the lodge. I suggest that everyone take this advice. For example, if it's a powder day and the run isn't groomed, go home, have a hot chocolate and wonder when they'll groom. If it's really steep and deep don't even ponder that run, hot chocolate calls. Conversely, if it's bluebird groomed and not steep, rail on!!

This philososophy will leave good snow for me, keep everyone else in their comfort zone and we'll all be happy.

Isn't this discussion really a matter of perception? We all want different terrain, different challenges, and different risks. My danger point may be different than your and that's what makes skiing awesome. We can all push ourselves to our own limits, go as hard as we want and love what we do. It doesn't matter if the cliff is 80ft or the run is blue...your comfort zone is the key. Ski to your comfort level, ski the terrain you like and HAVE FUN
post #25 of 53
Anything involving air kinda scares me, so I never hit jumps or the like (other than the little ones on the side of the trail sometimes).

Pretty much everything else I'm not scared of, ice, steep, moguls, tight, etc. or some combination thereof I'm confident I can get down in a controlled manner even if I can't ski it very elegantly.
post #26 of 53
I have heard that Vladimir Horowitz, one of the great concert pianists of all time, was afraid to go on stage often. Wanted to puke.

Once he said before a Carnegie Hall concert "I can't go on." His manager said "well you have to go out and tell them then." He went out, looked at the audience and just sat down and played.

I've heard great sports figures say they were extremely nervous and anxious before big games as well.

Fear is a part of all of us. It's looking it in the eye and overcoming it that is the key.
post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by skierhj View Post
Isn't this discussion really a matter of perception? We all want different terrain, different challenges, and different risks. My danger point may be different than your and that's what makes skiing awesome. We can all push ourselves to our own limits, go as hard as we want and love what we do. It doesn't matter if the cliff is 80ft or the run is blue...your comfort zone is the key. Ski to your comfort level, ski the terrain you like and HAVE FUN
THe interesting thing to me is not the different danger points - that goes automatically with different skill levels. The issue that interests me is that different people want their skiing at different points relative to their own individual thresholds. Some people like to be scared and others don't.

I know a guy at work who skis every weekend and never pushes himself. He is happy staying on easy cruisers for the rest of his life. Seems odd to me, but he is happy.
post #28 of 53
Quote:
I know a guy at work who skis every weekend and never pushes himself. He is happy staying on easy cruisers for the rest of his life. Seems odd to me, but he is happy.
I could be that guy.

To me, those of you who "need" to push yourself to have fun are just as odd. But it seems there're a lot of people like that. Keeps the doctors happy?
post #29 of 53
I think that if you are skiing something that you are afraid of then you are somewhere you probably don't belong. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't learn to ski difficult and dangerous terrain. It just means you should learn to ski it before you unecessarily endanger yourself and others. Naive people see others skiing what they perceive to be frightening terrain and imagine their skiing to be a death-defying act of reckless courage but this is misperception. Skiing well is a mastery of skill. Whether the sport is mountaineering or skiing or whitewater kayaking or whatever...., this is true. I quite often see people attempting to ski beyond their ability,gripped by fear and out of control and wonder what could be wrong with them?
My advice is to work on your skill, devise a strategy, take a lesson, whatever works for you.
post #30 of 53
Fear only enters the mind because of the lack of the skiing ability that give you the confidence to be fearless.

You look down a steep narrow run with rocks lining the edges and are afraid because you question in your mind that your skiing abilities will be sufficient enough to get you down it without falling and injury.

People are afraid skiing because they lack confidence in their own abilities, bottom line.

Common sense is knowing your limitations and understanding the risk factors be it avalanche or rocks or just plain steepness of the trail.

Lets not confuse fear with respect and common sense.

Skiing with fear makes for tense muscles. Tense muscles tire quickly and are prone to injury and stress.

Maybe I'm lucky. I ski without fear. I've been in a few situations in the past few years where respect for the situation has come into play. Slide zones for instance. But this is where my common sense takes over and tells me to pass. Look for a more secure way down.

Don't ski scared people. Skiing is too much fun to be afraid. Just use your heads.
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