Down with down­hill ski­ing

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Dick Hilker

Here we are in another sea­son of sport that can maim — and even fa­tally in­jure — its par­tic­i­pants. Foot­ball? No, down­hill ski­ing. While we wring our mitts over so-called bru­tal­ity on the grid­iron, we over­look the dan­gers of slid­ing down moun­tain­sides on a pair of slats.

Skiers run into each other at high rates of speed. They plow into pines, col­lide with conifers and lurch into lift tow­ers. One win­ter sports en­thu­si­ast wound up in the ER last sea­son af­ter ram­ming a per­fectly in­no­cent moose. No re­port on the moose.

And what about the poor guy who got pushed out of a chair­lift at one of our state’s ski ar­eas? The DA threw a flag for “in­ten­tional ground­ing.”

Statis­tics are murky, but the Na­tional Ski Ar­eas As­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates ski and snow­board­ing deaths have av­er­aged just over 41 per year for the past 10 years.

Plus, down­hill ski­ing causes more bro­ken limbs than a big spring snow­storm.

The num­bers on foot­ball deaths also are hard to pin down. But they seem to av­er­age about 18 per year, less than half of those on the slopes. The in­jury num­bers are un­known.

Yes, there are many times more skiers, but …

Con­sider the fate of the great Doak Walker, who won the Heis­man Tro­phy play­ing foot­ball at South­ern Methodist in 1948. He played six sea­sons in the NFL with Detroit Lions.

But the poor fel­low was done in by ski­ing in later life. He was in an ac­ci­dent that left him par­a­lyzed and he even­tu­ally suc­cumbed to his in­juries.

Are you sure you wouldn’t want your kids to strap on shoul­der pads rather than a pair Ros­sig­nols?

But this is not to sug­gest that ski­ing — one of our state’s ma­jor tourist in­dus­tries — should be abol­ished, as the anti-foot­ball crowd wants to do with that sport.

Rather, a ma­jor change in the rules should be en­acted for the slopes. In­stead of schuss­ing down moun­tains, skiers should only be al­lowed to tra­verse up­ward.

In fact, “up­hill ski­ing” al­ready is a realty here in Colorado. Most ski ar­eas al­low it, although it is re­stricted to “af­ter hours” at some be­cause of fear that down­hillers will run over the “skin­ners,” as they are called.

Aspen Snow­mass is a leader in the up­hill move­ment. In fact, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron wants to make his com­mu­nity the North Amer­i­can hub of up­hilling.

Con­sider the ad­van­tages: both a dras­tic re­duc­tion in deaths and in­juries and im­proved lev­els of in­di­vid­ual phys­i­cal fit­ness.

Af­ter a win­ter of ski­ing up­hill — an ag­gra­va­tion of grav­i­ta­tion — the av­er­age par­tic­i­pant would have a body that Von Miller would envy.

Colorado al­ready is ranked high among states with the health­i­est res­i­dents. It would be no con­test if ski­ing up­hill was the rule.

There also would be ad­van­tages for the ski ar­eas. Runs would no longer have to be groomed like the greens at Cherry Hills Coun­try Club. Rates for li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance would plum­met. Far fewer ski pa­trol mem­bers would be needed.

And area op­er­a­tors would not have to make any sig­nif­i­cant changes to fa­cil­i­ties. Ski lifts would be­come “low­er­ers.” Skiers would ride down, not up.

Up­hill ski­ing makes sense for many rea­sons, in­clud­ing the

safety of moose. Dick Hilker (dhilker529@ is a re­tired Den­ver sub­ur­ban news­pa­per ed­i­tor and columnist.

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