Opinion » Maxed Out

Backcountry responsibility code — a new necessity



It will probably come as a shock to many of you who have already braved the in-bounds slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains this season but believe it or not, there is still an alpine responsibility code. No, really.

I know you know what it is but I also know you know there are a lot of people out there, skiing and boarding within close proximity to you, for whom its existence would quite likely come as a complete surprise. Some of them can be forgiven, or at least understood. They're just learning to ski or board and in case you've forgotten what that was like, I haven't.

When you're new to snow sports, especially if you're (a) an adult and (b) trying to learn the ropes without the aid of instruction and/or with the aid of well-meaning but seriously flawed advice from friends, several things conspire to make an already challenging process an even greater challenge.

The law of gravity seems temporarily suspended. Not the law of gravity that drags you downhill at a terrifyingly accelerating rate, but the law of gravity that formerly kept you upright. What you used to think of as your finely honed control and coordination abandons the moment you bind your feet to skis or a snowboard and mocks your pathetic efforts to regulate your speed, direction and vertical relationship with the ground you're travelling across.

Add to that the strange, new physical reality you find yourself in. It's cold, which numbs your senses, at least the ones that haven't completely left you. There is quite possibly limited visibility; even if there isn't, there is because goggles reduce your field of vision and a white world, punctuated with treed borders, is not a natural landscape unless you've spent a lot of time on ski runs... which you haven't since you're just learning. There are people all around you moving in what seems like, at best, a completely random way and, at worse, on a collision course with everyone else.

And if that isn't enough to make you wonder what kind of rabbit hole you've dropped into, there is the disorienting howl of snowguns, spraying their stinging shards of ice and altering the very ground over which you fall, er, travel.

I feel for those among us just starting out. But I'm glad they've decided to join the madness. Their enthusiasm is our future and many of them are the new employees we've hired to make this resort work. For those reasons alone, I cut them and their seemingly random wanderings some slack. Like potholes on crowded urban streets, I accept they're there and I know it is my sole duty to avoid them. Sooner or later they'll get better and might notice those yellow signs on the first dozen tower poles as they ride up chairlifts.