I am a part-time resident of Steamboat, who takes great delight in my frequent visits to my home here. It is an absolute pleasure to return here, and be welcomed by old friends, as well as meet new ones.
A few years ago, I developed a problem with my vision, and as a result have been obligated to wear a “visually impaired” vest on the mountain. What follows are my observations of people and their response to this situation. As an academic geriatric neuropsychiatrist, I also am blessed (or cursed) with a particular interest in the behavior of others. My relative misfortune visually has not limited my ability to observe the myriad of reactions of others when they see an impaired or disabled skier on the mountain.
The following are but some of my observations:
Young women are uniformly eager to offer their assistance, and so, thank you ladies. I do not suggest to my male peers that they take advantage of this by fabricating a disability to their advantage. It does however, warm the heart to see young people volunteer their assistance in a spirit of cheerful friendliness. Steamboat seems to have raised you well.
Giving young men snowboards is akin to giving them keys to a Lamborghini. They represent a danger to others on the mountain and are almost uniformly rude, self-centered and unaware of the danger they pose to others. A disability vest, despite its bright orange color, is not a slalom gate, around which you must pass closely and at great speed. I call upon the authorities to pull such folks over and after appropriate warning, restrict their access to the mountain. Praise should go to the minority who have demonstrated even simple thoughtfulness, such as calling out “on your left” when passing, which would be a good start for all users of the mountain. It should be taught to the children in the ski school, as well, just as we have taught cyclists.
While waiting in a line to get on a lift, approximately one in 10 parties asked if I would care to join their group on the chair. Must people with disabilities always be assertive, or cannot others initiate thoughtfulness? I know this can be a sensitive topic and one may never be assured of the response in advance, but it never hurts to do the right thing for others.
Expert skiers and riders often seem to pay no heed to a disabled skier downslope from them who is skiing a perfectly predictable course. Why must you cut right in front of a disabled skier, when you clearly have the ability to choose your line of descent? This has happened countless times to me and can be quite frightening. Please think of others when you are racing down the mountain. You do not want the responsibility of further injuries on your conscience.
My own brush with this limitation has sensitized me to the perspectives of those less fortunate than me. I have the utmost respect and awe for those I witness skiing and riding with much more severe limitations and being assisted by the wonderful people of the STARS program. I urge all of you to consider donating to this wonderful organization. If you see them, thank them for all they do. There but for the grace of God ...
If you see me (or any other “different” kind of person) on the mountain, give a friendly wave, smile and a hello. It makes a difference.
The vast majority of the people I have encountered have been warm, friendly and considerate. Let us all try to be a little more thoughtful on the mountain that we share.
Alan Steinberg, M.D.