Down with downhill skiing
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@ aol.com) is a retired Denver suburban newspaper editor and columnist.