Last year my stepfather, who is 75, was hit by snowboarders on three separate occasions. And the guy only skied five days. This is why the international motto of the snowboarder is "Sorry, Dude." But the problem isn't that snowboarders are careless boneheads (some are, but that's not the problem). The problem is that as high-speed quads have put more and more people on trails, they have become overcrowded. At the same time, skiers have become more diverse: jumpers and speeders and tele-genuflecting geniuses winding in and out around snowplowing kids and frightened old-timers. Obviously, we can no longer play nicely together. We need to be separated. And the solution is on-mountain zoning.
It's all a matter of perspective. When I'm lollygagging down the blue runs, I resent those yahoos coming at me from all directions like kamikaze pilots. But when I'm taking a morning speed run, I want to scream at those poky intermediates who get in my way with their traversing from edge to edge of the trail. At Big Sky, Mont., last year I'd just finished arcing some turns in calf-high powder when some boarder chewed me out for heading down the side of the trail where she couldn't see me. I suggested that she occasionally look before she turned.
Think about it: You don't golf on a tennis court. You don't bike at the race track. Slow skiers, boarders and high-speed cruisers turn differently, so what we need are designated trails, marked not just for their difficulty but for their purpose. Skiers and riders alike would be happy if half-piper patrons could be enclosed behind sound-proof walls to spin off jumps to the sound of head-banging music and heads banging on snow. The older folks, meanwhile, could take their time turning without the fear of getting hit on trails enforced as slow-speed zones. Likewise they could designate a downhill course or two, and even improve its safety with nets and hay bales, for those of us who aren't going fast enough until the G-forces have pushed our ears behind our heads.
On-mountain zoning would make everyone happier. And it might just keep my stepfather alive.