Saturday, 14 March 2009

Silly Places to Sit (or stand)

I don't know if it is just my observations but there seems to be a distinct lack of common sense in the mountains this year. One particular symptom is in the places people choose to stop and wait or even sit down for a picnic. This seems to apply to all situations from the beginner slope right the way into the off piste and back country. So here is my top 5 list of places not to sit down. None of these are made up - I have seen all of these done recently.

1. In the middle of a race course. Ok, if it was a major race the course would be well fenced off, but when the local ski club set a training course they will still be moving down it pretty fast, so sitting on the racing line is a really bad idea.

2. On the landing slope of a jump. The landing of most jumps cannot be seen from above, so sitting here is likely to lead to you being landed on by a skier or snowboarder. Yet people keep on doing it. This one has amazed me for as long as there have been freestyle parks.

3. On a crevasse. A crevasse covered by a weak snowbridge will look like a hollow in the snow. This might seem like an inviting place for a picnic, until the snowbridge collapses and dumps the picnicers into the bottom of the crevasse.

4. Below seracs and icefalls. These towers of ice at the feet of glaciers break away suddenly and without warning. Not good for the people sat below.

5. Directly below a group of beginners learning to ski or snowboard. Often beginners will lose control and people sitting below are prime targets - particularly as beginners tend to be drawn to any object they are trying to avoid.

The most important advice in the mountains is to be aware - aware of the surroundings and aware of the potential dangers. Treated with respect, ski slopes need not be particularly dangerous places. However it is important to remember that despite the ski holiday packaging, there is still a mountain environment to consider.