Dec 1, 2001 | Marmot, Winter 2001

Play safe and enjoy your visit to Mt. Washington by Julia Perrie

Spring break at Mt.Washington had been a glorious holiday for the family. Sunshine washed the slopes every day and the snow was deep and rich. Six-year-old Lesley had just completed her second week of ski lessons and was eager to try a challenge...

After all, she’d graduated from keeping her skis in pizza wedge formation to the all-important French-fries. Her turns were a series of slow, calculated curves as she traversed, in complete control, from one side of Linton’s Loop to the other.

A few feet above her, Rick called out “Turn! That was great! Okay, Lesley, turn again!” in a voice that resounded over the crunch and swish of fellow skiers and snowboarders whisking happily by. Higher still, her mother and older brother were enjoying the leisurely pace set by the youngest member of the group. They shared giggles and laughter as mother and son stopped at the crest of the last lip to survey the slope below.

In his bright red and black jacket, Rick was easy to spot. At over six feet tall and weighing somewhat more than the average scarecrow, he was a big man. Lesley was just as visible in her brilliant turquoise and purple ski suit and the black helmet she’d kept on her head after her official lessons were done for the day.

“Turn!” Rick called and Lesley’s mom and brother poked each other and bragged about what a great skier Lesley was becoming.

There was no ominous warning that the man was coming. There was no shout, no earsplitting scream, no sound at all. Just the gentle whoosh of his snowboard shooting right past the huge,
fluorescent orange warning signs and over the snowy lip with a blinding flash of sun glinting off the razor-sharp edge of his board.

Time froze for Lesley’s mom and brother as they watched helplessly, unable to cry out fast enough to stop the disaster. Their world shifted into slow motion as the airborne snowboarder hurtled straight toward little Lesley.

A thunderclap rent the silence as the snowboard smashed into the back of her helmet and sent her tiny body flying in cartwheels through the air. In a moment it was over and Lesley lay unmoving, facedown in the snow.

Propelled by the urgent need to get to her daughter, Lesley’s mom skied frantically and cleared the lip in time to see the errant snowboarder scramble upright onto his board. She was stunned to realize that the miscreant was not the careless youth she had expected but was instead, an older man, with graying hair, clad in a baby blue, one-piece snowsuit.
His scathing comments echoed around the shocked silence of the small, caring group who had quickly gathered around the scene.

“You should keep better control of you f*****ng kids! What the hell is the matter with you? That kid shouldn’t even be on this slope!” And with that, he slithered away without the smallest gesture of concern for Lesley who still lay motionless on the snow.

They never saw the man again. Thankfully, Lesley survived with nothing more than a gash in the back of her helmet that was five inches long and scored right into the thick styrofoam interior. If not for the helmet, she would be dead. She has skied wearing a helmet ever since.

Lesley is one of the lucky ones. Every year, thousands of skiers and snowboarders are injured or killed due to carelessness, lack of safety equipment and lack of consideration for others.
Snowplay is all about Respect. Respect for yourself, for others and for the mountain. Anything less than total respect is a recipe for disaster.

Here are some stats on ski and snowboarding related injuries:

• There are 3 to 4 injuries per 1000 skiers, reported each skier day
• Less than 40% of injuries are reported
• Most injuries are minor
• Most ski injuries involve the ankle and thumb
• Most snowboarding injuries involve the wrist
• Skier hurt more knees, Snowboarders hurt more ankles
• Approximately 10% of all injuries involve the head and neck
• Approximately 40% – 50% of all injuries involve a stationary object such as a tree or lift tower.
• Most ski and snowboarding injuries can be attributed to personal error ? NOT equipment failure
• Most skiers do not use helmets. More snowboarders do.
• While alcohol does not appear to be a major factor in ski and snow boarding injuries I could not find any statistics regarding the affect of drug use on the frequency or severity of injuries.
• Expert skiers and snowboarders have just as many injuries as the beginners.

How can these injuries be prevented?

Start by following “The Alpine Responsibility Code”:

1) Always stay in control. You must be able to stop, or avoid other people or objects.
2) People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
3) Do not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above.
4) Before starting downhill or merging onto a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
5) If you are involved in or witness a collision or accident, you must remain at the scene and identify yourself to the Ski Patrol.
6) Always use proper devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
7) Observe and obey all posted signs and warnings
8) Keep off closed trails and closed areas
9) You must not use lifts or terrain if your ability is impaired through use of alcohol or drugs.
10) You must have sufficient physical dexterity, ability and knowledge to safely load, ride and unload lifts. If in doubt, ask the lift attendant.

In addition, here are a few more rules that are also important.

A) Get in shape early. A pulled groin muscle is such an inconvenience.
B) Obtain proper equipment and be sure to have your ski or snowboard bindings adjusted properly by someone qualified to do the job. A screwdriver wielded by Uncle Bob in his basement workshop might not be your first choice. It’s the cobwebs on the tools that will be your first hint.
C) Snowplay clothing should be water and wind resistant. Snap-off pants have a nasty habit of doing just that when you are airborne, upside-down and making the perfect jump in front of your girlfriend. And of course, you’re wearing a helmet, right?
D) Dress in layers. You are not Frosty the Snowman and you’ll be very happy for the opportunity to remove a few layers when the sun comes out.
E) Be prepared for sudden weather changes. It is not uncommon for a day of skiing weather to follow this pattern, Sunny, Foggy, Rainy, Blizzard, Sunny. When in doubt, bring at least half your wardrobe from home. That should just about cover it.
F) Warm up before your first run. I’m referring to stretches, not hot rum.
G) Take lessons. There is nothing quite so frightening as losing control, especially when you don’t know how to stop. And if you think it’s scary for you, try being the guy you sideswiped and sent head-first into the trees. Screaming will not part the crowd to make way for you.
H) Know the rules about food and drink. If you want to eat on the chairlift please do not throw your wrappers on the ground. That’s littering and we know your mother taught you better than that. If you must drink, make it fruit juice or water. Police ski the mountain so don’t be stupid enough to land yourself in jail. That would ruin your vacation.
I) Wear sunscreen! Keep in mind that UV rays are very strong when reflected off the snow. While spring skiing in a bikini is a great way to show off your figure, the resulting Skin Cancer could kill you.
J) Always wear eye protection. In addition to protecting your eyes from snow-blindness, goggles provide great
protection from small, skewering branches when you accidentally wind up in the trees.
K) Never start with the hardest run unless you are the coolest guy on the mountain. Of course nobody stays cool for long, eventually we all need to go inside to warm up. Most of us choose the lodge, but if you really like warming up in the ambulance on the way down the mountain, go for it!
L) Don’t be afraid to say “no”. If your buddies want to be stupid by boarding down a cliff and you can’t stop them, you don’t have be a penguin and follow their lead. Everyone knows what happens to the penguins who blindly follow their buddies off the ice. They wind-up as Walrus dinner.
M) When you are tired don’t take that last run of the day. That last leisurely swoosh down the hill could truly be your last. Listen to your body. It will speak to you. When it says, “I’m tired, let’s go home.” It isn’t kidding.
N) Do not ski out of bounds unless you have enough money to pay the enormous bill you’ll receive from the rescuers. Additionally, you might want to make sure you have a GPS device, enough food to get you through to spring, tools enough to build lodgings and an industrial first aid ticket. Oh, an avalanche dog might be good too.
O) Get familiar with the mountain before starting out for the day. Unless of course, you plan to ski all the way back to Courtenay. Ever had one of those moments when you get off the chairlift and are faced with two choices: take your life in your hands by skiing down the cliff or taking off your skiis and hiking uphill for the next two hours in order to find a run you can actually navigate.
P) Concentrate on what you are doing. Airheads were cute in high school but they are deadly on the mountain. Unless you want to be crowned Airhead of the Slopes from your hospital bed we suggest you pay attention.
Q) Always wear a helmet but remember it won’t save you from your own stupidity.

As Albert Einstein said: The difference between Stupidity and Genius is that Genius has it’s limits!

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