Opinion » Alta States

Mountain Crowding – what ever happened to R-E-S-P-E-C-T?



"Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing."

- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

My brother-in-law had both his legs broken a couple of weeks ago. Really. The damage was so severe he had to endure double surgeries in a Vancouver hospital the next day. Now he sits at home in his wheelchair wondering — worrying — about his recovery. Is this the end of his love affair with skiing? Will he ever be able to live the active outdoor life he once personified?

Maybe he'll be okay. Maybe his rehab will be problem-free. But he won't even know that for another year. Pouf. A whole 12 months of active play ... gone forever.

And consider this: if not for one out-of-control skier — if not for one young man with not enough respect for his own skills and not enough respect for his mountain surroundings — none of this would have ever happened.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the beginning.

An exceptionally talented runner and cyclist — and a life-long skier whose graceful swoopy turns have adorned Whistler Mountain's slopes since 1966 — Peter Ladner was minding his own business, quietly traversing under the rocks on the west side of Whistler Bowl on his way to the gully they call Frog Hollow one sunny Friday afternoon when...

"It was a beautiful February day," recounts Pete. "The light was good and the snow was still soft and pretty loose. I was moving steadily along the very visible traverse track. I wasn't being erratic or anything. Just skiing along at my own pace."

He stops talking for a moment. Sighs. Then he resumes. "I saw the skier at the last second. It really shocked me — I couldn't believe it. He was coming straight at me. And he was moving really fast."

Another long pause. "And he wasn't trying to avoid me! If he had been in control, he could have easily skied around me... there was lots of room on either side. But it's like he never saw me." The collision that ensued left the older man crumpled in the snow with blood seeping though his skipants. And the robust, young twenty-something responsible for the crash? Turned out he was OK. Except for a few bruises, he was able to ski home.

For the rest of this sad tale, I defer to Peter's 27-year old son, Tim, who actually rode down the mountain with his father's mugger. "The guy was a good skier," asserts Tim. "He definitely knew what he was doing. And he felt terrible about hitting my dad. He was really apologetic, you know. He told me he got pushed off balance by a mogul higher up and then he hit the traverse track and lost even more control."