As I get older, skiing is still a thrill I look forward to every chance I get to go. My major concern these days is skiing safety and skiing with courtesy, which go hand in hand.  As a senior, I worry about falling (which doesn’t happen very often, I might add), but even more about being “taken out” by a reckless skier or snowboarder.

In my skiing past I have learned courtesy on the slopes, following the rules of skiing that were posted then. Today those rules may be posted here and there, but I fear that people either don’t know how to read today or just don’t care about other people sharing the skiing terrain.

I have seen notifications posted on the monitors at lifts at Stratton and placed in very conspicuous places in the cafeteria at Mount Snow and other resorts, but it doesn’t seem to matter. When was the last time you heard someone coming up behind you making the statement, “on your left” or “on your right”? In the 60’s and 70’s, you heard it all the time. Now never!

I have kept track of this lately and of all the times of my being passed, it was just one or two times out of 100. Not very good odds. I call it out it every time I am going to pass someone, because they do have the right of way.

The other day I saw a truck on the highway with the notification to be careful when passing.

If you note the sketch included in this post, it does the same.

I ski very cautiously. For one, I ski along the edges of a trail. Yes, I do run the risk of falling into the trees, but that’s my decision. The reason for skiing along the edge is two-fold – the snow is always better there since it’s pushed to the edges as the day progresses, and if someone is going to pass me it will be on one side only. That reduces the chances of collision by 50%!  However, I must admit that I have been passed on the tree side at least a couple of times in my life.

In addition to skiing along the edges, I ski totally under control at a pace that is comfortable to me. I also have reduced my choices of trails to cruisers rather than steeps and for the less traveled trails on the mountain rather than the more popular ones.

As we age, it is also a problem to be able to turn our bodies and look behind us as we decide to turn, so I am going to try something new this year. I am putting rear-view mirrors on my poles to see if that will help – or will it even work?

I am always looking for suggestions as to what can be done to improve, even solve the safety situation. We shouldn’t have to just take our chances. I will continue to take my chances because I am not going to give up skiing. I plan to continue skiing untill my body won’t let me anymore. I don’t want someone else to make that decision for me – other than my doctor. And he’s a skier.

52 Comments

  1. wow send this everywhere, and it’s not only younger people. Two weeks before Christmas, mid week, slopes rather empty at Hunter, just getting legs on a blue trail, and one of the older retired regulars who ski there almost three times a day decides to pass me on the left, four feet clearance while there is 75 feet to my right and no one there. She clips my skis and we both go down. Now my biggest problem with going down is having much trouble getting up with skis on. But this stuff happens all the time, there are a bunch of really good older skiers who put in 60+ days at Hunter and a week out West chasing Father Time like they own the slopes, God Bless them but zero courtesy , it’s like hey we’re old and want to show everyone how we can still race down.
    =

    • MICHAEL ROTH says:

      Jimmy, it is unfortunate that the older skiers at Hunter are acting poorly, they should know better. But this is Hunter. I used to ski there a great deal but have not been there for years. it might be because of the reckless skiers I have encountered there over the years. Maybe these are the old ones that were younger when I was skiing there?
      I know the feeling of having to get up. I have to take at least 1 ski off in order to do it.

      • One of the problems with Hunter is downhill capacity. Too many trying to go down the same trail at the same time. Quads and high speeds have replaced doubles but the popular trail capacity remained the same. Many have novice ability but are on higher-rated trails that get bumped up early from heavy use.

    • I’ve been clipped by someone silently coming up from behind me, causing us both to fall, not together but close enough to be able to talk. What should be said is why I am responding to your blog. WHAT DO YOU SAY! ? Do you begin by asking them if they are hurt? Do you fake losing your temper and begin tongue lashing them for their error? Do you ask them where they got their driver’s license, Montgomery Wards? Does being civil drive the point home? The last time, I picked myself up, put my released ski back on, waiting for them to say something, and they diidn’t say a GD word. How about that?

  2. If you’re serious about mirrors, there are tiny ones that cyclists clip to their helmets.

  3. Using the ole ‘on your left/right’ doesn’t help if all you hear is a mumble.

    Now I thought a friend was going deaf. I tested her hearing… From 30 feet away
    I asked ‘Whats for dinner’ no response.
    So I moved to 20 feet, and I asked ‘Whats for dinner’ no response.
    So I moved to 10 feet, and I asked ‘Whats for dinner’ no response.
    So I moved to 2 feet, and I asked ‘Whats for dinner’ She said “I told you three times, Chicken”.

  4. My friend was standing in a lift line when an out of control skier took her out…torn ACL. It makes me so nervous when people ski so close…at least I can hear the snowboarders!

  5. Thanks for your article Mike. I’m a 74 year old woman trying to decide if I need to hang up my skis forever. I don’t want someone to run into me which happened last year. If I fall or get knocked down, then I’m not sure I will be able to get back up. It’s a hard decision as I absolutely love to ski!

  6. Great article. I ski along the trees in low light because it’s easier to see there. My concern with skiing there all the time is the skiers coming out of the trees. They rarely stop and look before merging onto the trail.

    I also announce which side I’m on when passing. I haven’t heard anyone do it when passing me since the 70s.

    Bryan

  7. Richard Kavey says:

    Collisions caused by reckless skiers are a huge danger and has been for decades. Amateur (National Ski Patrol) won’t police it. Some pro patrols will and do a very good job. Idiots on skis resemble idiots in cars without the three thousand pounds of steel. This is a serious problem that ski areas don’t want to solve – ski areas won’t divulge the injury rates even for research purposes! I think skiers causing collisions should be charged w assault. But this won’t happen.

  8. Concur with all of the points! I wish goggle makers would give more design priority to peripheral vision . . . cranking our heads around to see if some meathead is bombing through is harder with age and has its own risks.
    I too ski the edges and have been taken out by a boarder who thought he could thread the needle between me and the trees, until I closed the lane not knowing he was coming through. Ski on anyway!

  9. Many of the old throwback trails of the 50s and 60s were vehicle-width logging or fire-fighting trails. It was essential to call out “on your left/right”. The new trails that were added as the ski resorts expanded were mostly 40 to 75 yards wide or more, lessening the need for passing in close proximity to a skier ahead. This has contributed to an overall decline in the practice of warning those ahead. It is really upsetting when one is skiing on a very uncrowded very wide trail and another passes by unnecessarily too close and to top it off, does not warn.

  10. I was skiing down in control, when a woman was skiing across the whole run. There was no where for me to go do si said “ on your left”.
    She was furious. She skied down went into admin office for a rule book for the hill.
    She proceeded to find me in the lodge and yell at me for such rudeness. I don’t understand, is that not kosher any more??

  11. I always liked the term ” But you turned in front of me” as we pick ourselves up from the crash. my comment “but I have the right of way” doesn’t register

  12. I would think that a mirror(s) attached to your helmet (like a cyclist) would be better than your poles unless you don’t use your poles much and keep a constant position with them.

    • MICHAEL ROTH says:

      mark, you are right, in my next submission to seniorsskiing will be a photo of the mirror on my poles. it does work but people some up so fast that you can’t watch it. WE NEED TO KEEP OUR EYES ON THE ROAD SO TO SPEAK. there is a motorcycle helmet that has a built in camera looking back but it was very pricey.

  13. I find the most courteous people on the slope are the slopes that are THE most difficult. Therefore, I avoid cruisers, whether they are blue square or black diamond, or trails that lack natural disruptive undulations, ie: what I call a cruiser. Corduroy trails are the most dangerous for speed demons. Natural obstacles are needed on the trails to slow everyone down. It’s the grooming that is fueling and changing our ski environment to being dangerous. “Any fool can go fast,” is a cliché I heard during my ski courtesy upbringing. So, bring back the moguls, the chop, boiler plate, unpacked powder, narrower trails, double chairlifts, long skis and outlaw ear buds. What is bad, is having too much of a “good things.” So, re-learn to tackle the hardcore trails, and in doing so, making about a third of your normal run count. And, avoid all the other good things because I don’t think we will be changing our societies recent brought-ups. Lots of money or entitlements creates lots of spoiled and selfish people. It’s our bed we made and now we have to sleep in it.

    • MICHAEL ROTH says:

      we said, I don’t have a problem with that however my skiing buddy likes the groomer and since is older than me (81) I go along with whatever trail he wants to do. I am just happy that I can still ski at 79

    • I agree and avoid groomers, other than one warm-up run before the crowd gets to the resort. The safest place on the mountain are the mogul runs.

      • MICHAEL ROTH says:

        yes, I agree but as some of us get older, groomers areprefered, and it is important to be on the skis no matter what.

    • this is true…my knees and back love the groomers but i have been passed by straighliners who know they won’t hit any bumps and they are sitting back so far they could never stop if needed.

  14. Steve Wilson says:

    Steve Wilson 80

    An important exercise for seniors is Body Rotation
    Place weights (I use 15 lbs) in each hand. Then rotate your upper body as far as you can while also rotating your head as well. I do 100 reps. in the morning. But, only, every other day to ensure recovery.

  15. With my 70 years of skiing, since snowboard mentalities continually disregard the fact that the downhill (lower) have the right of way, it is just a matter of time before all of us get WIPED OUT.

  16. At 74 years, I have been skiing since 12 or 14. The first thing I learned was
    ON YOUR LEFT and ON YOUR RIGHT. Rarely hear that today,,,other than from my own mouth when overtaking and passing another. I am an accomplished skier in all types of terrain, though, if I do not ski the challengers frequently enough, I literally lose the required edge. The industry has grown the sport to where you encounter all levels of skill in all scenarios of difficulty. You have fall line skiers mixed with traverse and turn types who would be better off working on and improving their technique and skill on more gentle and forgiving slopes. Mixing the two, can and will present moving hazards for all concerned. Good judgement seems to be in short supply, no matter where one chooses to ski. I try to ski where others are not standing and gathering,. More often than not I will take a line at the side of a run, along the tree line because of the clutter in the middle of the run. Always look uphill, before beginning a down hill run. Always yield to those skiing the fall line, uphill from you before you begin your slide. Let them go before you start, so as not to cause the added congestion of moving objects on the slope. When you drive your car….you do not pull out into oncoming traffic, without looking and yielding to other vehicles until after they have passed. Otherwise, you will likely be T-boned and possibly hurt or deceased. Skiers who are down hill of others have responsibilities too, like….DO NOT STOP on the slope below a bump or a transition, where you cannot be seen from above. Makes sense ehh! I,ve seen unskilled knuckle heads straight running the fall line on relatively steep, narrow, hard-packed and icy conditions seemingly unconcerned about the safety of those skiing below them. I,ve encountered snowboarders completely unconscious of traffic on their blind side, suddenly swooping into the fall line you are skiing. This is the sport we love. These are the experiences we all try to avoid, yet, the crowded slopes and different individual levels of skill will inevitably present situations that may compromise the safety of ourselves as well as others. Always show courtesy, apologize for unexpected encounters and help the other skier,-boarder as best as possible. If you’re older and grayer, mid week may be best. Living in Southern California, after forty years of slogging along at 10 mph, I avoid the freeways at all cost, during rush hour.

  17. Love the cartoon complete with collision spikes. I’ll be 70 by next season and started in CT when I was 4. On the first run of the first day this year I got taken out by a young boarder. I have never been hit before. She was treating the cat track like a terrain park and she was not very good at it. I could have clobbered her as her head went by but I was taught not to hit women. I could have bounced off her boyfriend on the other side but it would then it would have been my fault. So down I went. Limped around for a few days and decided no more mister nice guy. I am hyper aware now and if it happens again the interloper is going to get a shoulder or an elbow. I won’t just curl up and take it.

  18. It might help a little if ski instructors talked and modeled “on your left” type alerts. The responsibility code doesn’t even list this important safey protocol.

    • MICHAEL ROTH says:

      I agree Iris, at Whiteface last week I had a group of youngsters pass me with an instructor and so comment even from the teacher.

  19. Anne Arnott says:

    Skiing has really changed since the 70s and 80s. Modern skis and groomed slopes have enabled most skiers to progress to fast carved turns. I understand. It’s great fun…and so much more dangerous, as skiers turn into missiles. It won’t change. I try to ski when it is uncrowded. Mostly first thing in the morning. When it gets too busy I go home. Luckily I live 10k from the resort.

    • MICHAEL ROTH says:

      I too will ski the morning and if a particular slope gets busy, I seek out the ones that don’t get busy. we also leave noonish (riley can’t go more than 4 hours)

  20. No one has mentioned the style of older skiers. As an 80+ year old skier I am much more cautious that I used to be and not as good a skier. I find myself doing a lot more traversing that I used to which makes me a great target for the zoomers. I also tense up when I hear a boarder coming at me from behind.

    AL

  21. So, so true. Skiing Okemo last week it only happened once when 2 skiers approached from behind. One said “on your left” the other “on your right”. Clued me to just go straight. I don’t believe in about 25 days of skiing last year that it happened even once. I got slammed very very hard from behind at Powder Mt. in Utah, injured seriously. The skier never apologized or stopped to see how I was. Just proceeded on!!

    • MICHAEL ROTH says:

      Eileen, that’s unfortunate and I am going to Powder in a couple of weeks. I will watch out. were you at Okemo with the 70 plus gang?

  22. this is true…my knees and back love the groomers but i have been passed by straighliners who know they won’t hit any bumps and they are sitting back so far they could never stop if needed.

  23. Thom Jesberg says:

    It would be interesting to know where people are skiing. I am 71, been skiing since I was twelve, exclusively in Minnesota and Michigan, and ski better now than I did 30 years ago. I personally love the groomers. For me if there is one consistant enemy on the hill it is snowboarders. They behave like they own the whole hill, tend not to look where they are going, and will without warning park themselves in the middle of the hill. Sometimes three astride. I don’t know that the hills, by themselves are making people ski faster. They were groomed as good in “64” as they are now. Equipment is way better in some ways and worse in others. I am not a fan of ever wider skis which seem to dominated the market these days. Not everyone skis out west. Having said that I don’t believe it has increased speed that much around here. For my own safety I will wait until the coast is clear in front of me before I take off. I don’t ski the edges because my biggest fear is some idiot zooming out of the pines as it has become very fashionable, particularly for kids to ski the trees.
    Lets face it, even under the best of conditions it is a hazardous sport. Increasingly so as you age and your body doesn’t behave the way it used to. My back and knees remind me of that every time I go out. Ski safe and have fun!

  24. MICHAEL ROTH says:

    I agree with you except for skiing the edges. Probably because there are few places on the mountain for people to shoot out of the tree here at Gore for instance. I am 79 and love the sport too much to give it up over the chance of getting taken out which does increase as we get older.

  25. Mikey… well said. Have a great time at Powder. I’ll be there with 70+ in late February. I have 2 neon ski outfits… one orange and one green… I alternate just to make sure the crazies know where I am. So far, so good.

  26. Cheryl Vieira says:

    Great article! Yes, I still call out when I am going to pass, ski the edges and ski defensively. I have to say this takes some of the fun out of skiing but as you said, I am still glad to be skiing at 78! Hoping the weather improves here on the west coast so we can get up to Bachelor!

  27. Yes, this is a concern all over, not only for older people on the hill but pretty much everyone. I work at Park City Canyons as a mountain host and we see quite a few collisions throughout the season, especially as the resorts have become more and more crowded. The majority of collisions I see are not because people aren’t courteous, but skiers or boarders riding too fast for their ability, or they are on a slope above their ability, they lose control and aren’t able to avoid the person in front of them. We also see the advanced person traveling way too fast for the conditions or the amount of traffic on the run, but this is actually less common as advanced skiers and boarders have the ability to maneuver quickly when they need to avoid a collision.

    I do agree with you about calling out “On your left (or right)” when passing within close proximity. This is especially important on narrow passage runs. One thing I often do when I am on these types of runs and overtaking other riders is I hold my ski poles behind me and bang them together so that those in front of me can hear where I am and not make an abrupt turn in that direction. It does help but I also verbally shout out if I’m passing fairly close. One problem that has arisen, especially with young adults, is they oftentimes have earbuds or speakers in their helmets and can’t hear you.

    All you can do is lead by example, and hope that people learn from that and reciprocate. I did have a strange occurrence of being courteous and having it backfire one day. I was traveling on a fairly wide run and I was overtaking a skier on his left. I had plenty of space to pass but I noticed he looked as if he might turn left toward me. So I shouted out “I’m on your left.” He was startled and turned his head quickly to see me, was not an experienced skier and this caused him to lose control and wipe out. I felt bad and waited to make sure he was okay but I really didn’t do anything wrong and I continue to warn people as I pass.

    One thing I will tell you Mike is this. In our training for safety, we are told on high-traffic runs the safest place to be is in the middle of the run, and this is true. I see it all of the time. The slower, less advanced riders/skiers mostly stay in the middle of the run for the large turning area. The more advanced skiers are traveling on the edges and often at a much higher rate of speed. Yes, the snow on the edges is usually better but there is much less room for error and it is more dangerous on the edges because of what you mentioned, if you catch an edge, lose control, or say there is a collision, you have a much higher risk of going into the trees.

  28. MICHAEL ROTH says:

    Scott, some good points and I will take that into consideration. Thanks for the responses!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*