Friday, April 18, 2014

Baldy skiers can handle their speed


      I am writing to respond to Mr. Mayer’s guest editorial “Resort should penalize dangerous skiers” printed in the April 9 Idaho Mountain Express.

     Suffice is to say, I am hoping that Mr. Mayer and I can agree to disagree, agreeably. While I am sensitive to his concerns I strenuously disagree with not only his conclusions but the entire premise they are based upon.

     I remember the very first time I skied Baldy in 1977. I was a ski bum at the time and had been skiing for the past eight years straight at Alta and Snowbird. I thought I was a pretty good skier. My first day on Baldy taught me otherwise. Not only was seemingly every skier technically solid but they were also so blindingly fast. This before the days of perfectly groomed corduroy top to bottom—it mattered not. Watching the locals rip up Limelight without stopping made me realize a great skier anywhere else would be just a good skier here.

     I too have skied all over the country like Mr. Mayer and I can say this emphatically: Bald Mountain has the best skiers anywhere! Bald Mountain does not suffer the lazy hand position or back-seat skier. You best know how to carve a ski at speed and you best be comfortable at speed and to be surrounded by skiers that will be going a lot faster than you. It is what makes Bald Mountain the mountain for real skiers anywhere. Other mountains may get more powder, have more and steeper terrain but no place has the top to bottom sustained pitch that defines the Baldy skiing experience. With sustained pitch, invariably comes speed. It is a given.

     I have watched five kids grow up on this mountain. They are all very good, very fast skiers/boarders. Their idea of a comfortable cruising speed would be most people’s idea of skiing at the absolute edge of sanity. They don’t even think twice about it. It’s what they were raised with and it is the type of skier they have watched carving turns on Baldy since they were old enough to sit on a chairlift.

     Before writing this, I took time to talk with a seasoned veteran of the Ski Patrol—40 years of seasoning. As I suspected and he confirmed, skier to skier/boarder collisions are rare. Perhaps there are a few glancing blows from skiers colliding but those are few and far between. People typically don’t get hurt from them.

     Far more common are blown-out knees and shattered collarbones from your run-of-the-mill fall. What people know that have skied Bald Mountain for a long time is that the really bad accidents are caused by collisions with trees, not people. If you have lived here long enough, you know someone who isn’t here anymore because of that fact. I can count on one hand the skier-to-skier collisions I have heard of in 35 years of skiing here. Mr. Mayer’s supposition that it is “… well known that many of the most serious skiing accidents occur when fast skiers over take slower ones” may well be true at other ski resorts in the U.S. but it is simply not the case on Bald Mountain.

     So, if this was my first season skiing here, would I find the average speed a bit unnerving? Indeed, especially if you have been skiing anyplace else in the U.S. Would you perhaps think that a “bomber” whizzing past “95 percent” of those on the slopes is in some way out of control? Perhaps. Is it possible that a “senior skier” may have a different view of the responsibility of an overtaking skier than, say, a 15-year-old ski-teamer? Rest assured, there would be differences.

     I would like to suggest the following: Spend a few more winters here. Over time, you will become more comfortable with the speed with which so many skiers seem to ski at all the time. You will probably come to understand that just because someone chooses to ski fast does not make them reckless or out of control. Who knows, that young “buck” or raging “doe” that just blitzed by you on Warm Springs may very well be the next Chuck Ferries, Christin Copper, Reggie Crist or Kaitlyn Farrington. To aspire to be an Olympian means you have to ski at a mountain that affords you the opportunity to ski like one. Bald Mountain does just that.

     As for me, I don’t think the Ski Patrol want or need to be traffic cops. Let them continue to do what they do so well, and as their motto proclaims: “Haulin’ the Fallin’ since 1936.” 

     Tim Eagan is a longtime Wood River Valley resident who operates a Ketchum-based real estate company.

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