A Slippery Slope
For some, alcohol is as much a part of skiing as zipping down the mountainside. On one ski trip, however, a friend and I learned alcohol has no place on the slopes.
I was young, skilled and bulletproof — at least in my mind. I was fresh from a European tour, where I had haunted the slopes of the Alps in various countries. Now that I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, the Rocky Mountains were calling my name. A bunch of buddies and I decided a trip was in order, so we piled into a van one morning at zero-dark-thirty and headed for Monarch Mountain’s deep, white powder.
On the ride up to the slopes, a Thermos was passed around with heavily spiked coffee — you know, just to warm us up. Once at the lodge, we wasted no time suiting up. I grabbed my bota bag, which was full of “warm-up juice,” and headed for the lift. My friend, Joe, and I tore up the slopes until midday. By then, we were feeling tired, hungry and more than a little buzzed, so we headed for the lodge to get some chili and a few beers.
After warming up, it was back to the slopes. On the ride up the lift, Joe said, “Let’s race; loser buys the beer at the end of the day.” Of course, I was more than game for the challenge. I got the jump off the lift and had the initial lead; however, by mid-slope, Joe started to gain on me. I tucked in and tried for even more breakneck speed, but I hit a slight bump, got squirrelly and lost my momentum. As Joe buzzed by, I could see him laughing. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to collect on our bet. He did get a free helicopter ride and two weeks in the hospital — a victim of speed, overconfidence, alcohol … and a tree.
We’ve all been bombarded with the message that it is illegal to drink and drive, but many are unaware that the same rules apply to activities such as skiing, boating or snowboarding. In fact, if you are found under the influence after a skiing accident, you can be held financially liable. Some locations are also prosecuting offenders. It has become such a problem at some resorts that the ski patrol now carries breathalyzers and has violators arrested. What’s more, Colorado has enacted a law targeting skiers acting in a careless manner that allows for a $1,000 fine for being drunk and stupid.
Fortunately, Joe recovered from his injuries and we both came away from this experience with an important lesson learned. When you’re on the slopes, leave the booze behind. In addition to risking your own life, you’re jeopardizing the safety of others on the mountain with you.Did You Know?
There is a common misconception that alcohol can warm your body in cold weather. In reality, it encourages dehydration and causes surface blood vessels to dilate, which cools the blood, thereby decreasing the body’s temperature. The false sense of warmth you get actually leaves you more susceptible to cold weather injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia. In addition, the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes can intensify the effects of alcohol. Alcohol clouds judgment and common sense, creating a false sense of confidence. That’s not a good thing before undertaking any dangerous activity.FYI
Skiing can be a great way to spend a vacation. Before hitting the slopes, keep in mind the following safety tips provided by the National Ski Patrol.
- Get into shape. You’ll enjoy skiing more if you’re physically fit.
- Obtain proper equipment. Be sure to have your ski or snowboard bindings adjusted correctly at a ski shop. You can also rent good ski or snowboarding equipment at resorts.
- Take a lesson. The best way to become a good skier or snowboarder is to take a lesson from a qualified instructor.
- Drink plenty of water. Be careful not to become dehydrated.
- Curb alcohol consumption. Skiing and snowboarding do not mix with alcohol or drugs.
- Dress in layers. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. For example, dress in polypropylene underwear (top and bottom), which feels good next to the skin, dries quickly, absorbs sweat and keeps you warm. Wear a turtleneck, sweater and jacket.
- Be prepared. Mother Nature has a mind of her own. Because 60 percent of heat loss is through the head, bring a headband or hat to the slopes. Wear gloves or mittens (mittens are usually better for those susceptible to cold hands).
- Wear sun protection. The sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, even on cloudy days!
- Always wear eye protection. Skiing and snowboarding are a lot more fun when you can see.
- When buying skiwear, look for fabric that is water and wind resistant. Look for wind flaps to shield zippers, snug cuffs at wrists and ankles, collars that can be snuggled up to the chin and drawstrings that can be adjusted for comfort and keep wind out. Be sure to buy quality clothing products.
- Know your limits. Learn to ski and snowboard smoothly — and in control. Stop before you become fatigued and, most of all, have fun!
For more information, visit the National Ski Patrol website at https://www.nsp.org