Opinion » Alta States

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

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But? "I just can't understand," admits Tim, "why with all that room on that hill he would ski straight into my father without trying to avoid him in any way. It's like he wasn't paying attention to where he was going." He pauses. "And it's steep where he was skiing. It's not a place to just let yourself go..."

So then what? Were there any official sanctions eventually imposed against the young man? "None that I know," says Tim. "The patrol didn't discipline him or anything. He just skied down to the valley with us and then went home."

Concludes Tim: "Even though the guy's sorry and everything, he f****d up! My dad's ski career could be done. He might never run again. It's tragic..."

Now if this were an isolated case at Whistler, I wouldn't have bothered bringing it up. Random bad things happen in life.... And sometimes they happen to us. That's just the way things are one might be tempted to conclude. Deal with it.

But Peter's season-ending accident somehow opened up the collision-story floodgates. Since his crash, my electronic in-tray has been overflowing with missives from angry and frustrated skiers recounting their own fear-and-loathing mountain-mugging incidents.

Many tell me they've dropped out of the sport entirely because of their fear of getting hit. Some say they carefully manage their ski days to avoid the crowded hours and congested times. Others admit they have simply left the groomed slopes for the more esoteric pleasures of ski touring or Nordic skiing. But all of them are united in a common refrain: there's no respect for anyone — or anything — on the mountain anymore. It's a mad free-for-all where only the strongest survive.

Not to put too fine a point on it. But older skiers and riders are feeling under attack. They wonder if it's worth the effort. For many, Pete Ladner's Whistler Bowl collision is the tipping point. As one 60-something friend confided: "I'm not going to risk my life and my future all because of my love for skiing..."

Hah. Frightened oldsters. Who needs 'em? Snowsports are for the young. And the healthy. If you can't keep up with the times baby, well, you just have to move on. Right? Wrong. Alas, the people I'm talking about are the ones keeping this damn sport alive!

Yes. Those annoying baby boomers. As Peter Ladner so wryly puts it: "It's ironic that the very skiers and riders deemed so vital to the snowsport business now consider the danger of being hit as a big factor in whether or not they stay in the sport."