Enough already......past a certain point, if you've never raced downhill, you really don't know what you're talking about. Yep, people crash and get injured...and most of that is just plain old pilot error. You're always betting that you're going to do the right thing and win, knowing that there isn't a whole lot of margin, and if you don't do the right thing...well, Bad Things can happen.
I doubt very much we're ever going to make downhill completely safe. I think we've made great strides...no more grisly crashes and injuries due to sub-standard fencing, which is how Gernot Reinstadler got killed and Brian Stemmle almost got killed. Whatever we can do to make it safer, I'm certainly fine with that, but I think it's safe to say that there is no consensus on what will make it safer.
The FIS is always talking about safety, but I don't see much changing, and if anything is going to change, it's going to have to be by their initiative. If you look at this year's World Cup...a year where the FIS said one of its goals was racer safety...we've had about the same number of blown knees and horrific crashes as last year, or the year before...and not just in speed events, either. If somebody can find a silver bullet to make this sport bomb proof, fine. If not...I think the biggest thing to remember is that nobody ever makes anybody go and race downhill. A lot of racers, really good ones, elect not to race speed events.
I chose, and still choose, at age 60, to continue to race DH and Super G. I've crashed 3 times in 20 years doing 70 mph, and walked away from all 3. I pretty much know how to do my best to survive a high-speed yard sale, which is to go with the flow and don't fight what's happening...but I also have no illusions about the fact that God, or whomever, watches out over fools. Somebody bigger or smarter than me let me walk away all three times, albeit with some bent skis, busted poles, trashed goggles, and a bunch of bumps, bruises, and minor ligament strains. I'm experienced, physically prepared, have all the Right Stuff as far as gear, and know how to approach a speed event with the proper respect and preparation. But I have no doubt, every time I push out of the starting gate, that I'm treading a thin line between winning and a trip to McDonald's.
Pretty damned dumb thing for a senior citizen to be doing, right? Absolutely...you'll get no argument from me. But it's also, if and when you do make the finish line, the biggest rush in any sport I've ever had...and that includes other marginal activities like descending the Rockies on a road bike at 55 mph plus. Nobody makes me race downhill, I don't make any money out of it, there's no fame attached for an aging Masters racer who still wants to go fast...I just do it because it's an experience that very few people will ever have, and the risk is worth it to me. The great and omniscient Georges Joubert once called downhill "the last modern adventure", and he was right on the money.
There was a curious moment in last week's Ski Cooper speed week, and it occurred on the second day of training. The first day, believe me, all of us who had had maybe two runs on the big sticks all year were Seriously Concerned about what in the hell we were doing there. Then Friday it started to come together, and the lines started getting better, the tuck started getting lower, and we all started skiing faster and looking at each other's times. But you know what? That wasn't the main thing everybody was feeling. Two guys in my class...fast, experienced racers with whom I was dueling...said exactly the same thing in the finish after one of our afternoon training runs...which was "Wow...that was the most incredible rush I've ever had in my life." True story.
If you haven't already seen it, I strongly recommend that you go watch The Thin Line, by Jalbert productions. Probably the best documentary I've ever seen about what downhill really is...