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Parental Advisory: The editorial staff at Pique NewsMagazine has deemed that the following toys are dangerous — not to your children, but to you, a full-grown adult who should really know better. By Andrew Mitchell Every Christmas, doctors, concerned parents and all-around spoilsports publish list after list of toys that can potentially harm a child if eaten, fallen on, thrown, shot at point blank range or set on fire. The logic is that a child is capable of almost anything when left unsupervised — that by exercising a little caution at the toy store, you can reduce the risk of 'almost anything' happening. This, in the eyes of an adult, is sensible parenting. But who said parents were sensible? Every Christmas wives give husbands power tools, husbands give wives Sport Utility Vehicles, and no thought is given as to how dangerous these grown-up toys can be. The logic is that an adult can handle it — that over the years you acquire a certain wisdom and skill that puts you firmly in control of any given situation. But the truth is, there is no statute of limitations on having a 'whoopsy-daisy'. When you mess with the bull — whether you're six years-old or 60 — you get the horns. To help you make safer gift decisions this Christmas, we have compiled a list of toys that can be dangerous to adults if ingested, switched on, ridden, worn, or rolled into a ditch. 1. Snowboard, bindings, boots – $900 to $1,400 With its 'young punk' stigma buried somewhere under the snow on Ross' Gold, a growing number of adults are taking up snowboarding — and finding out with a good deal of pain that it's not as easy as it looks. You can even get hurt — last season, from November 1998 to August 1999, more than 2,130 snowboarders passed through the Whistler Health Care Centre after falling predominantly on their wrists, elbows, heads and rear ends. According to Rob McSkimming, managing director of the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski & Snowboard School, a lesson can give you the edge you need to keep off your seat and on your feet. "Snowboarding is one of those things you can pick up really fast, but the first couple of days can be a bit rough," says McSkimming. "Taking a lesson can help you get better value out of your day at the hill, showing you what to do, where to go — on big mountains it's a little bit harder to get into the groove." McSkimming estimates that the number of adults taking lessons increased by 50 per cent last year, and today there are more than 300 adult snowboard instructors on both mountains — almost twice as many instructors than are teaching kids' programs. If you have to risk life and limb on the slopes this season trying something new, whether it's skiing or snowboarding. McSkimming also recommends wearing a helmet. 2. Snowmobile (high end) – $8,500 to $12,000 Although ripping through two feet of high-alpine powder at speeds approaching 160 km/h may sound like a lot of fun, a snowmobile is not a 'toy'. According to Al Bush, owner of Valley Chainsaw and Recreational Ltd. and an authorized Ski-Doo dealer, a snowmobile is "the ultimate recreational vehicle." "You can get to where you want to go in 20 minutes, when you couldn't walk there in a day," says Bush. Only a helicopter can give you quicker and easier access to the backcountry. Slednecks often compete to see who can get the highest mark in the alpine bowls and some of the more adventurous local riders are riding their sleds off cliffs and cornices. "You're not supposed to, that's not what they're built for, but people do it anyway," says Bush. "Whatever a person can stand, a snowmobile can stand." Oh, and snowmobiles can also be dangerous. Being able to go so deeply into the backcountry also increases your chance of becoming lost or stranded in the event of a mechanical problem. The avalanche hazard can be even more dangerous than on ski runs because there is no ski patrol to test the slopes and do avalanche control. You can also hit trees, rocks and roll off the trails into trees and rocks. You can go through ice into a lake or river. That's why Bush makes sure everyone who buys a sled from him also gets a helmet and a booklet on snowmobile safety. He also strongly recommends safety courses for all first-time sledders. "People usually ask for it," he says. "Most of the people around here are pretty careful, pretty respectful of the mountains." 3. Sport Utility Vehicle, midsize – $26,000-$75,000 When Al Cowling and the fugitive O.J. Simpson raced down an L.A. freeway, pursued by five helicopters and 23 squad cars, a nation watched spellbound as Juice's white Bronco deftly weaved in and out of traffic, sped up like a European sportscar, cornered like a dream and stopped on a dime in O.J.'s driveway. It was like a forty-five minute commercial for Ford trucks. By the next week, Johnny Cochran was on the case and SUV sales went through the roof. And, like Juice — a Heisman winner, Hall of Fame-er and a free man — they have been unstoppable. Even today, SUVs remain the fastest growing segment of the automobile industry, and sales at Christmas are way up. In a poll conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, people said they felt safer in their SUVs, liked being higher up and enjoyed having a large amount of cargo space. In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that SUV drivers are two and a half times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than passenger cars, and have a substantially higher death rate. You are five times more likely to kill the driver of a passenger car in a driver's side collision. In addition, the inertia created by the extra weight and power of an SUV makes stopping on ice more difficult, and greatly reduces the effectiveness of the bumper system. And local tow-truck drivers could tell you they pull more SUVs out of ditches than regular cars. As for being higher up, SUV's have been found to be more prone to rollovers than passenger vehicles — big tires, a high cab and jacked-up shocks raise the centre of gravity of an SUV higher off the road, making it easier to tip. As for the extra cargo space, a lighter back end and fatter tires make SUV's prone to skidding and fish-tailing when making sudden stops or driving in winter conditions. To counteract the light back end, many SUV drivers put bags of salt or sand in the back, or drive solely in 4WD. Both solutions will end up hitting you where it hurts the most — your wallet. But when you live in snow country, a four-wheel drive vehicle may be your only alternative. The Alberta Motor Association recommends using narrow snow tires (bumpy tires are for mud) on your SUV, engaging your 4WD before you need it, and giving yourself plenty of time and space to stop. Anti-lock breaks are a good feature, and in the event of an accident, next generation air bags are a proven way to save lives. Most of all, don't let your 4WD lull you into a false sense of confidence — a patch of black ice can send an 18-wheeler off the highway. 4. Lingerie – $15-$200 Red is not the colour of Christmas by accident. A fresh snowfall, twinkling lights, some egg nog spiked with nutmeg, and a roaring fire, combined with nothing much on television, can be a potent recipe for romance. But even romance, if they still call it that, is not without its dangers. According to a U.S. study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 68 per cent of fatal heart attacks occur while engaged in strenuous activity (wink, wink). A sudden shock, such as seeing your wife emerge from the bathroom in some exciting new lingerie, or stress, such as waiting for your wife to change into the new lingerie you bought her, are also common risk factors leading to heart attacks. If the romance is successful, there is always the risk of children, which are heart attacks waiting to happen. Money, which is a leading cause of stress, is also an issue with children: according to a study by the Armchair Millionaire website, it costs a middle-class family approximately US$142,000 to raise a child to the age of 17. This year, if you must give in to temptation, Tony Cailes, who owns The Love Nest, Romantic Accessories store in Whistler with his wife, Kira, recommends practising safe sex — stretch, warm up with foreplay, then go for it. "If you're a little rusty, we offer a good selection of manuals, how-to-books for novices, and a full range of slippery things," says Cailes. "And if you need to limber up, we also offer a lot of toys for foreplay." Staying in training is crucial according to Cailes, who is offering a fleece "Peter Heater" to keep vital equipment warm. 5. Audio Visual Equipment – cost $3,000 to $8,000 You know you have it made in the shade when you can afford to go out and buy yourself a grown up sized television, DVD player, stereo with surround sound and a remote control the size of a computer keyboard — a state-of-the-art home theatre system. You should be aware that such systems are conducive to laziness, which can lead to all sorts of health problems, and entertaining, which can be more deadly than you realize. According to the Health Canada handbook for Healthy Active Living, inactivity can result in premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and colon cancer. According to the FBI Crime Prevention Unit, more than 95 per cent of murder victims are killed by somebody they know. It stands to reason that the more new friends you make with your solid state entertainment system, the greater the potential that you will wind up as a homicide statistic. Now that you have all the facts on these common adult Christmas presents, we recommend that you treat this list of dangerous adult toys the same way you would normally treat the lists for dangerous children's toys — ignore it. If Benjamin Franklin didn't take a chance in that rainstorm, he wouldn't have invented electricity. If James Watt hadn't kept at it after two explosions, he never would have invented the internal combustion engine. And if you don't take chances in Whistler, you're never going to have any fun at all.

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