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Injuries on the slopes: skiers, boarders use caution

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.

Injuries on the slopes: skiers, boarders use caution

Postby ERIC » Sat Mar 18, 2006 6:52 pm

Injuries on the slopes: skiers, boarders urged to use caution

By Keli Dailey
The Calaveras Enterprise
Thursday, March 16, 2006 8:24 PM CST

On his first attempt to reach Bear Valley Mountain Resort during last weekend’s winter storm, Jeff Nachtigal and his friends couldn’t make it more than a mile from their Arnold cabin rental. The all-wheel drive Subaru pitched forward and spun around on Country Club Drive, a road that slopes and feeds into Highway 4, and when it’s covered with ice and snow, delivers cars and trucks down against their will like an upturned box of Raisinets.

Nachtigal, a Berkeley resident, hit a tree buffered by three feet of snow berm, bucked up his courage (the Sierra was calling!), did a 180 and drove into another snow berm.

That was the most terrifying part of his weekend, he later said. He felt totally in control when he was gliding across double diamond runs the next day, navigating his snowboard around bare branches peeking through fresh powder.

“I’m a better snowboarder than driver in winter conditions,” Nachtigal said.

Even after taking enough tumbles to require four Ibuprofen, he didn’t give a second thought to the recent spat of ski and snowboard deaths in the Sierra Nevada - AP reports nine deadly accidents since Jan. 26; none happened at Bear Valley.

“Every person weighs the odds in the their mind when they make a choice to do something that is risky,” Nachtigal said. “I’ve certainly heard of people dying in the snow. In Utah I’ve heard of people launching into a huge snowdrift and suffocating. (But) when you pay $50 for a lift ticket you’re damn well expecting that you’re going to be pretty safe.”

The National Ski Areas Association reports an average of 39 skiing deaths happen each season. That pales against an average 40,000 motor vehicle-related fatalities in the U.S. each year. Still, news of the Reno man who snowboarded into a tree at Northstar in Lake Tahoe, the most recent fatality, prompted a Placer County officer who’s monitored Lake Tahoe for 24 years to call this one of the deadliest seasons he’s seen.

Injuries from winter sports are common. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported almost 58,000 snowboarders and more than 48,000 skiers ended up in hospital emergency rooms in 2004. Even the recent Winter Olympics in Italy - where America’s top Alpine skier Lindsey Kildow had a horrifying crash, carrying her into the air for almost 15 feet - served as a reminder of the risks winter athletes from all skill levels face.

“Always ski within your ability and stay in control,” Sam Nilsen, part of Bear Valley’s 20-person Pro Patrol, advised. His team, dressed in black pants and red coats with big white crosses on them, and National Ski Patrol volunteers, are the first responders when Bear Valley guests get hurt. They also take lift tickets away from reckless guests. But Nilsen said there’s no reason people can’t safely enjoy the resort’s “March Miracle” - the six feet of new snow that fell the past two weeks, and still lays across the Sierra like a duvet cover.

Just remember that falling on this bed can hurt.

Contact Keli Dailey at
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