Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baldy guiding is a reckless idea

The sidecountry off Baldy is an accident waiting to happen. With the combination of steep slopes, unstable snow, changing weather conditions and increased skier activity, it's only time before an accident or a death occurs. For the Forest Service to encourage greater use of an already hazardous situation is ill-advised.

Though the guiding community is very professional and takes their clients' safety as the No. 1 priority, the sidecountry has many more uncontrollable and unmanageable variables than the backcountry up north. Those variables are the multitude of existing sidecountry skiers.

Unfortunately, there are some sidecountry skiers who have little or no knowledge of avalanche science, avalanche equipment or avalanche experience. I have witnessed sliding snow set off by skiers above me and I have come across skiers who were lost and completely unprepared to be out in the sidecountry. For a professional guiding service to put its clients into this potentially dangerous situation is reckless. And if a client(s) or the entire guided group were caught in an avalanche, set off by another sidecountry skier or vise versa, it would be devastating for all involved and detrimental to our local ski economy.

Furthermore, for the Forest Service and the guiding companies to represent sidecountry skiing as relatively safe is putting revenues and profit ahead of common sense. And that is not the ethos of our mountain community. Therefore, I encourage the Forest Service to make the responsible decision and reject the sidecountry guiding proposal.

Jeff Smull

Sun Valley

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