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A big mistake skiing

I made a big mistake skiing last week. Bigger than last year, when I went down Stein’s head first on my back. I was not injured, but Stein’s is a story for another time.

Last week I was at the top of the Joe’s Cruiser trail at Sugarbush North, one of the widest trails at Sugarbush. Someone said, “Look how beautifully that man is skiing,” referring to a man in dayglow pants beginning his descent using telemark equipment. He did appear stylish and using good telemark form.

I also noticed a boy about 10 years old about two-thirds of the way down the trail. He was using only about 12 feet of the trail on skier’s extreme right edge. His ability to control his speed and his posture while skiing was impressive to me. The boy appeared to be a well-trained, experienced skier.

As I watched the man in dayglow descend, he swooped at high speed back and forth over the full width of the trail. I could see that his path would intercept the boy’s, but I was too far away to warn either one. The boy could not possibly see the man approaching from above and to his right. I hoped the man would see the impending collision with the boy below and would turn to avoid it. He did not.

The man and the boy both disappeared in a cloud of snow, skis and poles. I started down to see if anyone needed help. By the time I arrived on the scene, the boy had skied off. The man was just getting back on his skis and had his hands on his knees, catching his breath. I asked if he wanted me to call the ski patrol to help him down off the mountain. He declined. He said he had injured his knee a few weeks previously, and reinjured it in the collision, but would finish the run on one ski. I offered him the excuse that he was probably looking down the mountain, so he did not see the boy off to his right, but I told him that he was clearly at fault.

When I related the events to my friends, they reminded me that the ski patrol could have confiscated the man’s pass because of his code violation: failure to avoid a skier he was overtaking.

Skiers should not only know the code but should obey it. When I taught flying, students would ask why they had to follow so many rules. I told them that when Orville and Wilbur started, they did not have rules. Pilots did maneuvers that got them killed, and when the maneuvers and the deaths corresponded often enough, the powers that be made a rule against that maneuver. Injuries and deaths over the years led to the development of the skier’s code.

My big mistake was not reporting the man in dayglow to the ski patrol, for his safety and the safety of every skier at Sugarbush. I apologize to all of you for my mistake.

McGuirk lives in Warren.

The Valley Reporter - serving Vermont's Mad River Valley since 1971