Those of us who live or spend time in the mountains like to think we are removed from the frantic, dog-eat-man world of the big city and its attendant crime. The assault on Blackcomb last week put to rest that smug assumption. The incident, in which a skier and a snowboarder got into a fight, which was then joined by two other snowboarders who kicked the skier in the head, goes far beyond any simple skier-snowboarder conflict. RCMP hope to lay assault charges, which would make the incident a criminal matter. But more than that, it’s one more sign that the mountains are losing the special sense of place they once had and becoming more like a suburban mall. And those who immediately point to the snowboarders are missing the point. A few weeks ago I witnessed an exchange between two skiers on one of the local mountains. One guy was standing off to the side of a run when the second skier went past him at a good clip. "Slow down "--- hole," yelled the first. "F--- off," was the reply. This is the level of exchange that now takes place in a sport and an environment that used to be life-affirming. One shudders to think about the turf wars that have taken place on some California shores when a "rogue" surfer wanders into someone else’s territory. So far the incident on Blackcomb is an isolated one, although few people are surprised by it. How do we make sure it remains an isolated incident? I don’t think it’s a matter of putting more ski patrol or speed patrol on the mountains. For many years skiing suffered in popularity because it was too difficult for many people to bother with. Not the technical, turning part, but getting to the mountain before dawn, putting on bulky clothing and uncomfortable boots to stand in line for a slow-moving chair while exposed to the elements. Now it’s easier to go skiing, and even easier to go snowboarding. That’s made both sports more attractive to people, which is good. But with easier access to the mountains there seems to be less appreciation for the mountains, and for others on the mountains. Skiing and snowboarding have become more like driving the freeway or shopping on Boxing Day: it’s every man for himself and anyone who gets in the way had best watch out. In the mountains — indeed, in the cities — there used to be better understanding and appreciation for but with that there seems to have been less appreciation for the culture of the mountains I suggest the solution is more along the lines of education and appreciation for the mountains and for others on them. (not that you should have to pay some kind of dues to go up the mountain; but it’s like visiting a foreign country; you should go there with an open mind, tolerant of others and aware that customs may not be exactly as they are in your world/country)


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