Originally Posted by Bob Barnes
I've been hit a few times over the years by people who definitely fared a lot worse than I did. While I'm always glad if they didn't get hurt, I still have zero sympathy for them, either way.
Two things amaze me these days. One is how few people actually know how to make a real turn--that is, a definite, precise, and controlled direction change, at will. The other, which seems to go hand in hand with the first (since few people realize that they don't know how to make a real turn), is how many people think that it's everyone else's responsibility to get out of their way. (It isn't--not legally, not ethically, and not by any rule of common courtesy or sense.)
"He turned in front of me" has to be the among the lamest excuses for a collision ever invented (other than the guy who once told me "you were in my carve"). It demonstrates a complete lack of awareness of the responsibility we all have to be able--constantly--to prevent collisions with anyone on the hill below--when overtaking, to "leave enough space for the overtaken skier to make any voluntary or involuntary movement" (from the FIS "International Rules for Conduct"--as good an expression of common sense as I've seen). "I was
in front of you (you idiot)--where else could I have turned?"
Unfortunately, turning is becoming a lost art, at least in the United States. The overwhelming majority of skiers at most major resorts I've seen fall into two categories: those who think of their "turns" purely as techniques to control speed (which means that what they call turning is actually braking
--gross skidding, with consequently minuscule control of direction), and those who have learned to do nothing but lock up their edges and ride around on their sidecut, with little control of either direction or
speed. The "flat ski world" of freestyle terrain parks, and the onslaught of rockered, reverse sidecut, fat specialized powder skis, used out of their element on the "front side," have not helped the situation either.
And that is the problem--many skiers simply cannot turn! They don't realize that all they're doing is defensive braking, or edge-locked carves. They don't realize that braking is the antithesis of "going where you want to go"--that braking skids actually sacrifice directional control. I've long said that great skiing, as a habit, involves "skiing a slow line fast" (skiing a slow enough line as fast as you can, when you can--and braking when you have to). That means using technique to control line, and line (tactics) to control speed. Skillful skiers can thread a line safely through a crowd of people as easily as through a gladed tree run. "Ski the spaces between the trees" (and people), they say. It doesn't matter how fast you go--if you go where other people aren't! But the majority of skiers, at best, try to avoid obstacles and other people--which is very different from going where they aren't! It's like a driver looking for light poles, trees, mailboxes, and pedestrians and trying to miss them, rather than looking to keep it on the road.
I have often said that great skiers do not turn to control speed--they turn so they don't have to control speed! Skiers who ski well, using tactics (line) to control speed, obviously make direction changes. They complete turns of any chosen size as much as needed, carrying speed across, and sometimes even back up, the hill (if they're good enough, and need to reduce speed). Needless to say, that puts the most skilled skiers the most at risk of collisions with the out-of-control (of direction) skiers skidding and hacking their way down the hill at sometimes great speed. "You turned in front of me...." Well, duh!
It is ironic that the very efforts to control speed (brake) can cost us control of direction--and also that the faster you go, the more dangerous it becomes to hit the brakes. For these reasons, skiers who think turns are for controlling speed, and who develop the habit (and skills) of using their skis or boards primarily as brakes, inevitably become increasingly dangerous the "better" they get.
Eventually, they become the idiot who nearly killed one of our fellow EpicSki Bears the other day at Keystone. That Bear--a very strong skier--was linking high-speed, highly carved, consistent medium-short radius turns down a steeper blue pitch. Because he's also alert and experienced, he saw the idiot bearing down in a straight line--tails swishing uselessly left and right--just in time to abort a turn, leap out of the way, and possibly save both of their lives. The idiot skied over the Bear's skis, and continued on down the mountain, oblivious. Witnessing this egregious incident, I skied down and confronted the idiot. "Are you aware that you just skied over someone's skis and barely avoided a serious collision up there?" I asked. "He turned in front of me," the idiot replied. When I reminded him that the other skier was
in front of him, and that turning is what good skiers do, and that it was his responsibility and legal obligation not to endanger skiers ahead of him no matter what
they do, his reply become a slew of profanity that I won't attempt to repeat here. No recognition of his irresponsible behavior, of the risk he was exposing himself and others to, of how close he had just come to causing a serious incident for which he would have been 100% at fault, and for which it is very unlikely that he carried liability insurance to protect him (as in a car). And no apologies--just a string of profanity, and several repetitions of "he turned in front of me."
Would I have felt sympathy for this guy, had he hurt himself? No. I'd have been relieved to see him carried off the hill, off skis, where he couldn't endanger anyone else for a while!