Letter: Looking over my shoulder

There have been some regular commentaries on the state of the mountain skiing experience, so I don’t want to repeat what is already been said, but add to supporting an ongoing concern over the safety and enjoyment of skiing that seems to be diminishing over the years. I am in my 70s, with a not-so-flexible body that continues to be physically active because of fine orthopedic advancements and the doctors who continue to put me back together so I may enjoy a sport that I have grown up with as a longtime local and Colorado native. I ski much more conservatively these days, watching over my shoulder, and I’m picking my runs carefully. It’s more about being in the outdoors enjoying the magnificent views of the surrounding peaks and skiing with friends or family.

But after being bodyslammed from behind by a straightlining snowboarder riding down at the confluence on Lodge pole, I only heard “sorry” as he left me looking like a yard sale, never to be seen again. I seem to hear more and more stories from friends and others who have either given up skiing or been injured in some way through a similar collision of sorts. Now I have become even more mindful of the dangers involved in skiing, where some individuals ride or ski out of control with little sense of personal responsibility for others.

My body cannot afford a collision without serious consequences to my personal well-being. But of greater concern are my grandchildren, families and guests who embrace the love of skiing together, who could easily have their lives upended unnecessarily by another snowboarder or skier that finds an irresponsible use of terrain more important than the safety of others. Those families, like my own children and grandchildren, are growing up in this valley or visiting, and are coming to know and embrace these mountains and all that they have to offer.

The two recent letters from Tom Priest and John Forester speak to the problem that has become so very apparent on our Vail mountain. The question is, what will happen to the skiing experience in years to come? Vail resorts has unquestionably continued to provide a beautiful, well-groomed mountain with amazing lift access, but has left the safety and enjoyment of that mountain in question.

I feel Vail Resorts officials also have a certain responsibility to the usage of their product. Without more skiing signage in particular areas, along with more yellow jackets or whatever is needed to help educate reckless skiers with some measure of consequences, I see an experience that will continue to be compromised. So I will ask myself, where will I go skiing with friends and family and feel the enjoyment of the mountains that we all know and love? For me, I will more likely spend more time in the backcountry where I can earn my turns, or on the Nordic track where I can find enjoyment in a rhythm stride, without looking over my shoulder.

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Buck Elliott


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