Shannon Lukens: A dangerous sport

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Well, it has finally happened. My 5-year-old has been nailed by a snowboarder. Libby, a Winter Carnival princess weighing all of 38 pounds, was zipping her way down Right-O-Way, probably singing while she skied, when three snowboarders came blasting down the beginner run catwalk, one of them slamming into her from behind. She flew out of her skis, and landed in a heap on the ground, screaming.

It was at this point that the angry mother bear instincts in me emerged, in a very ugly way, screaming at the boarder at the top of my lungs, while pulling out my cell phone to call 911. That's when the boarder said, "But she turned!" Oh, please. She was skiing along the treed edge of the run, maybe four feet from the side, hitting little jumps and whoop-de-dos. This guy thought he could zip right between her and the mountain. That's when he slammed his full-grown, early 20s male body into my precious little kindergartener.

The only number I knew to call was 911. My main concern was my child's safety, and not letting the hurling mass of male boarder get away.

Eventually, I was transferred to the Steamboat Ski Patrol. I tried to explain my location, in the midst of my hyperventilating and overall mass hysteria. Soon, Chris Parks and a slew of ski patrollers came up to assess the situation.

Their first concern was Libby. Was she OK? What hurt? Her head. Thank goodness for helmets. After a few questions and some poking and prodding, we decided Libby was OK. A snowmobile ski patroller arrived, and she got a ride down to the base.

The next focus was on the boarders. While we had been waiting, one of the three made his way over to Libby, to sit with her and make sure she was OK. John (the one who hit Libby) and his friends were visiting from Omaha, Neb. I apologized for my episode of complete mass hysteria, while still trying to explain to them how my daughter could be dead right now because of their need for speed.

The ski patrollers then spoke to them. I explained to the patrollers how I appreciated that one of the boarders sat with Libby, while the other two stayed at the scene and were respectful of me, despite my infuriated rantings. After one more lecture, we were all on our way. I had to get to the base to pick up my older daughter from Winter Sports Club. She happens to be a snowboarder.

How do we get the point across to skiers and riders that this sport can be dangerous? Parents, if you are reading this, you need to emphasize to your children that they really can hurt someone. I want these boys to know that had Libby been injured, criminal charges would have been filed, as would civil charges, all for a little thrill down the hill of going fast.

Am I singling out snowboarders? Not yet. I'm just telling you the facts.

Out-of-control skiers can cause damage, too. But it wasn't a skier. It was a snowboarder. According to the Web site for the National Ski Areas Association, under Safety & Education, it says, "Most fatalities occur in the same population that engages in high-risk behavior. Victims are predominantly male (85 percent) from their late teens to late 30s (70 percent)," according to Dr. Jasper Shealy, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., who has studied ski-related injuries for more than 30 years.

Is it skiers or snowboarders doing the damage? Shealy adds that there are about 2.63 reported injuries per 1,000 skier visits. And when it comes to snowboarders, the rate has increased to 6.97 from 3.37 per 1,000 visits from 10 years ago. The NSAA Web site adds, "Most of those fatally injured are usually above-average skiers and snowboarders who are going at high rates of speed on the margins of intermediate trails." If you or someone you know is nailed (or you see it happen), take a picture of the person with your cell phone. Then you can help catch them if they try to shirk their responsibilities.

One last thought, do we need to have local law enforcement patrolling the slopes? If it's going to get this crazy and dangerous just to go skiing or riding, then maybe a pair of police officers needs to be on the mountain as well, to back up the ski patrol. I know I'd feel better.

As for Libby, we're trying to downplay what happened so that she isn't afraid to go skiing again. Parks followed up that afternoon to make sure she's OK. He offered to go skiing with her for a run or two, which I appreciate. Right now, she's still more excited about the snowmobile ride. I hope it stays that way.

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