No one loves and appreciates off piste skiing more than the Mad River Glen ski community. It's one of the things that makes Mad River Glen the special place that it is. In fact, our staff, including our patrollers, are some of the biggest aficionados of this aspect of the Mad River Glen ski experience. As the ski industry has evolved over the years, more and more (and younger and younger) skiers are taking advantage of our off piste terrain, and the opportunity for serious accidents has increased.
There have been a number of incidents over the past few weeks that have our entire community concerned. One of these incidents resulted in serious injuries to Steve Skilton, a long-time Ski Patroller (and some say the fabled MRG Easter Bunny) . Steve was responding to a patrol call with several other patrollers in a particularly challenging off-piste area when his injuries occurred. The entire Mad River Glen community wishes him a speedy recovery.
Steve and his family would like to thank his fellow patrollers, especially Jon Cohen who heroically prevented far worse consequences. They also want to thank the Mad River Valley Ambulance Service for their prompt and professional response, and the Mad River ski community at large for their outpouring of support. If you would like to keep abreast of Steve's progress or send along your thoughts visit the Friends of Steve Skilton Facebook Page or check out theCaring Bridge website.
While we in no way want to curtail off piste skiing here at Mad River Glen, we would like to encourage our skiing community to be aware of the dangers and to be as safe as possible. Please remember to follow some basic guidelineswhen skiing off trail:
- Always ski in groups of 3 or more and stay together. This will ensure that everyone is accounted for and in the event that someone gets hurt one person can stay with the injured skier while the other goes to get help.
- Never ski off trail after 3 PM, at any time of the year. By doing this we can minimize the possibility of mountain staff having to perform a night time search and rescue.
- Please wear eye protection in the woods. Also, check your clothing and equipment for loops or straps that could get caught on trees and other objects.
- When exiting the woods onto a trail, be sure to stop and look up hill to make sure no one is approaching on the trail. There have been a number of close calls of late.
- Assess the skills of those in your party. Be sure that everyone knows where they are, and how to exit. Should an accident occur, any member of the party needs to be able to report the location, and guide rescuers if necessary.
- Assess the conditions before you venture off trail. Surfaces can be dramatically different in the woods than they are on the trails, and change day-to-day. The trees are especially dangerous when surfaces are firm, when the cover is thin and when the snow is variable.
- Safety and using good judgement should be a group effort.
If all of us can follow these common sense guidelines we can make sure that accidents and injuries are minimized. It is also vital that we all have a discussion with our young skiers so that they are aware of these safe practices and that they too understand that accidents can and do happen. We encourage everyone to use this letter as an opportunity to educate the young skiers in their lives. It is up to every skier, regardless of age, to take responsibility for themselves and for the safety of others while on the mountain.
Let's "have each others' back," so to speak, in the spirit of the true and unique community that is Mad River Glen, and promote safe, smart, and fun skiing. It is still about having fun, and extracting the best possible experience for all involved from our beloved MRG. Thanks for taking the time to read this, enjoy the rest of the season and let's all take a sunny, spring skiing run for Steve the next time you are here.