The Social Contract; rules of etiquette; the Golden Rule; stop on the red/go on the green; get off the elevator before others get on; if you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding; all have two things in common. They are rules to live by and they are roundly disregarded by, it seems, an increasingly boorish populace.
And then, there are the terminally clueless. You know whom I mean. People who take one step off an escalator and stop to look around, perhaps to get their bearings, perhaps because the ground beneath them has stopped moving and they're unsure what to do next, perhaps because they sense no larger world revolving around them until the people behind finally push them aside. They're the same ones who drive on the two-lane, twisty parts of the Sea to Sky Highway 20 kilometres/hr below the speed limit and then spool up their turbos to keep the lineup of cars behind them from passing on the multi-lane sections. Yeah, those ones.
Recently, quite a few people have been remarking how it's been getting weirder and weirder on the mountains this season. I'm not talking about general VailBorg weirdness. I mean... how to delicately put this? Quite a few more people practicing the bizarre art of skiing and boarding with their heads up their arses. I'm glad they said something. I thought it was just me noticing it.
But a quick survey of folks working at the clinic and putting in overtime at the various physiotherapy body shops in town seems to indicate its not only getting weirder, it's getting more dangerous.
Skiing and riding have inherent risks. I know that because: A) it says so right on the waiver of liability we all sign frequently, and B) skiing over the years has given me the opportunity to become professionally acquainted with the local nurses, docs and physiotherapists. Never as a result of collision with another person. Just running into inanimate objects... like the ground.
But with the rise of people on the mountains who seemingly fail to appreciate those risks, and as a public service, it seems like a good time to revisit the rules of the slopes — the Alpine Responsibility Code. I know, rules? Responsibility?
1. Always stay in control
You must be able to stop, or avoid other people and objects.
I'm guessing we can just give up here. Control seems like such an unreachable goal for many sliding down the slopes these days. Let me just say "control" means a great deal more than just remaining erect. This is aptly demonstrated by folks on fat, rockered skis who seem to be steering from the lap of the person behind them. Scary to see from the safety of a chairlift, scarier still coming toward you, eyes open wide in terror.
2. People ahead of you have the right-of-way
It is your responsibility to avoid them.
For those unfamiliar with the term "right-of-way," it grants others, in this case people ahead of you on the slopes, the "right" to proceed with precedence. For those of you unfamiliar with the term precedence, look it up.
As with most rights, right-of-way is not absolute. Just because you are in front of, say, me, you do not have a right to traverse blindly across the entire width of a run and cut in front of me — not knowing I'm there, of course — so you can enjoy a hit on the side of the run I'm proceeding down. Legally, that's known as abandoning your right because you're too ignorant to have one. A small child I outweigh probably five-to-one is alive today because I guessed he was about to do that in time to avoid turning him into a pool of blubbering pudding.
3. Do not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above
We are all familiar with the herd of snowboarders — sorry, but the stereotype seems to hold true here — sitting just below a riser enjoying a joint, out of sight of people ignoring rule no. 1, and in danger of being skewered by them.
But increasingly this season, the notion of obstructing a trail is being displaced by people obliviously obstructing lift lines. If you're going to wait for friends slower than yourself, try doing it before you get past the RFID gates and well off to the side. I know, it seems sooooooo obvious, doesn't it? Apparently not.
4. Before starting downhill or merging onto a trail, look uphill and yield to others
In your universe there may be no one other than you, but on the mountains, there are probably others behind you. When you stop because you're tired, the pitch in front of you is scary, or you need to vape, look behind you before you take off again. No, really, try it some time; you might be surprised at what's coming.
5. If you are involved in or witness a collision/accident you must remain at the scene and identify yourself to the Ski Patrol
The key word here is "involved." If you're the hitter, stick around. The worst that can happen is you'll get your pass pulled. Unless you hit a lawyer... from the U.S. Increasingly likely in the Age of Epic™. In that case, run like hell.
6. Always use proper devices to help prevent runaway equipment
You do not want to suffer the heartbreak of runaway equipment. You'll lose sleep wondering whether it's lying in a ditch somewhere.
7. Observe and obey all posted signs and warnings
Like patting your head and rubbing your tummy simultaneously, this rule requires you to do two things and is therefore hopelessly optimistic. Especially considering observing is one and obeying is the other. As if.
8. Keep off closed trails and obey area closures
At least stay off the ones likely to start an avalanche on the people below. On second thought, this requires obeisance to no. 7 and is, therefore, unlikely to be followed.
9. You must not use lifts or terrain if your ability is impaired through the use of alcohol or drugs
I could understand the behaviour I see if I thought alcohol or drugs were involved. If any of you have a better excuse or explanation, please let me know. Oh, is bud 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.
The recently deceased Warren Miller built a cinematic career on people not being able to successfully negotiate chairlifts. It's funny in his films. Pathetic on the mountain. Well, that double ejection fall I saw IN THE LIFT LINE the other day was pretty funny. Can't wait for another clusterf--k sixpack.
Clearly, in the Age of #MeMe the code needs an upgrade. 'Til then, be careful out there.