Risk and reward

The word “consequences” continues to surface in my ski travels. First, the word emerged from a guide on my recent heli-ski trip. Since then, the word keeps popping up from fellow skiers to ski patrol and resort managers. It’s a heady reminder that skiing beyond boundaries, and ignoring signs and warnings, increases your risk significantly with potentially serious consequences.

Terrain Park elements, with metal rails and sharp cornered boxes, can have obvious impact and consequences (ouch).

My gal friend was skiing Sunday River’s glades alone recently when she veered too far into a river bed. Her consequence was a long hike through waist-deep snow out of the gully.


Skiing beyond the back snowfield boundaries at Sugarloaf, you can get lost outside of patrol’s nightly sweep, and the consequence can be a cold, lonely night, hypothermia, or worse. That cell phone won’t keep you warm. Your actions, or ignorance, put others in peril as well when a search and rescue team is deployed into the cold dark night.

Out at Big Sky, Montana, the Big Couloir is risky. This steep, tight chute wedged between rock bands is officially in-bounds but requires that you sign in with patrol and be equipped with full avalanche gear: peeps, shovel, probe and a partner to proceed down the 50-degree descent one at a time. The consequence of a fall could be serious injury if you slide and slam a rock.

Heli-skiing comes with huge safety protocol, but if you disregard the guide’s instruction or ski beyond the area they have deemed safe, you put yourself and your group at huge risk. When I inquired if we could ski one gorgeous-looking snow bowl we flew over in the helicopter, the guide said “that slope comes with too many consequences.” Enough said. No need for further details of the detriment that could ensue.


Yes, there are risks to skiing, which increase exponentially if you ski beyond your ability, ski too fast along the sides of trails and trees, or beyond boundaries that have been established by the resort and its patrol. So consider the consequences, which you control to a large degree, before you huck that cliff, speed down that crowded run or duck under that rope. Show care and consideration, and enjoy the rewards and health benefits of gliding down a snow-covered mountain. There is nothing else like it.

For more of Heather’s ski tips, go to www.familyskitrips.com

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