Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Pitfalls And Perils Of High Mountain Skiing – With Relieved Postscript

I'll call him "the luckiest man of March 25." As an addendum to my last post, today at about 11:30 I watched a man tumble about 1,000 feet through the gullies at Big Sky, Montana. I was on the Lone Peak Triple chair watching about five people ski down from the traverse to the First Gully. One of them falls, loses a ski, and balances on one leg heroically for a moment.

Over and over he went, a spinning stick image down the eastern face. Then he almost cart-wheels, arms and legs flying and enveloped in little puffs of snow. Heading for the rocks that marked one of the narrower gullies. Then he flies through the opening, and you can't tell whether he'd hit a rock or not. Finally he stops. People ski over to the bottom of his line. He moves and gets up. A friend of his snakes through the gully picking up his equipment. Another joins him.

The what I assume was an older kid, maybe 17, gets up. Puts his skis back on, and casually skis the rest of the bowl, even hopping over a little mogul. Sheesh! I suppose he did the ragdoll thing, and the fact that he fell so loosey-goosey (and didn't hit a rock) saved his bones, and his life. I was so relieved to see that nothing much had happened to him.

What's the take-away point here, other than to relate a harrowing story? Only undertake adventures within your own limits (and try to know and learn your limits). Don't just do something because everyone else is doing it – because of peer pressure. Expand your personal limits incrementally and rationally.

Later in the day I had my own modest adventure. I shouldered my skis and hiked up to a little peak, at about 10,000 feet, above where the Big Sky challenger lift lets off. In the picture, you can see the little peak to the right of the tall peak (Lone Peak), and the bowl that I skied down into. The climb was harder than it looked and really fun, mixing a little hike with skiing, with stunning scenery all around. It maybe took me 20-25 minutes.

Then I put my skis on and started skiing down. I heard a voice – "that section's closed; don't go down there!" – and there's a Big Sky guy waving at me from above. They had just closed off a big section of that terrain. I apologized profusely and skied back under a rope, and contined my descent on a different part of the slope.

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