From the Top: Fast and Safe

From the Top

I have a confession to make. I like to ski fast. Sometimes, when the conditions warrant, really, really fast. Deep powder may be the ultimate canvas for expression, but the G-force feedback of carving on hard snow at high speeds is a very close second¿and much more attainable on a day-to-day basis. That's why the speed crackdowns multiplying at resorts from coast-to-coast this season raise a red flag. In Colorado, for example, Vail organized a posse called the "Yellow Jackets" to control traffic, and they pulled 60 lift tickets the first weekend. Declaring an outbreak of "slope rage" in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Stowe designated a series of "Comfort Zones" and set out to promote safety awareness.

I'll certainly support any program that promotes "safe skiing" and reduces accidents on the hill. I just worry that to some people "fast skiing" is synonymous with "unsafe skiing." There's a big difference between skiing fast and skiing out of control, and to outlaw the former under the guise of eliminating the latter would be foolish.In the Eighties, reacting to an onslaught of litigation, ski resorts took much of the fun off the mountain and homogenized the skiing experience. Reversing that trend in the Nineties, resorts reinvigorated skiing by opening wild new terrain, promoting the backcountry and building halfpipes and terrain parks. It would be unwise to revert to the flawed Eighties approach in the 21st century.

In this issue, former U.S. Ski Team member Lisa Feinberg Densmore reveals six tips that will help you stay in control at high speed. We're not advocating that you tuck the bunny hill. We're merely promoting solid technique as the backbone of safe¿and fast¿skiing. And, while resorts are allocating resources to create slow-skiing zones and speed patrols, perhaps they could design a few "fast-skiing" areas, too¿and ensure that everyone skiing within them is skiing in control.

I have another confession to make. I've never had the patience or the demeanor to be a ski instructor. And occasionally I think my ski instructor friends can get a little too tied up in talking technique rather than just doing it. So the first time I heard about the World Alpine Synchro Ski Championships I was slightly skeptical. Then I watched this Battle of the Ski Schools in Vail, and it dramatically changed my thinking. I've stood slopeside at four World Alpine Championships, an Olympics and more than a hundred World Cup races in a variety of skiing disciplines. I've had the opportunity to take in a lot of good skiing, and synchro is the real deal. Read about the 1999 championships in an article by former ski instructor Peter Shelton in this issue, and you'll be inspired by the competitors' ability and commitment. You'll also learn from winning coach Brian Blackstock how synchro skiing can improve your skills.

Final confession: I'm taking the afternoon off to go skiing. Fast, in control and maybe even in synch.