Surprisinly few injuries on the slopes |

Surprisinly few injuries on the slopes

The consensus at South Shore ski resorts: Slow down or else!

The lack of snow this year has not led to more injuries than normal, but many people are worried it may only be a matter of time.

“Either we are really lucky, or our skiers and riders are really good,” said Bob Shultz, assistant ski patrol director at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

Ski areas have yet to open many of their runs, forcing a greater number of people into smaller areas than usual.

“We are having a skinny year so far and the skiers aren’t as spread out as they usually are,” Shultz explained.

The conditions, Shultz said, makes it even more important for people to take responsibility for their own safety.

Jimmy Lawrence, director of risk management for Heavenly Ski Resort, agrees.

“We have a limited amount of terrain, (so) as crowds increase everybody has to slow down and everyone has to be conscious of the skiers and snowboarders around them,” Lawrence said.

Shultz said the slopes at Sierra are hard packed with lots of obstacles, and Lawrence said that while there are a lot of “wide open slopes” there isn’t more than 12 to 16 inches of snow at Heavenly.

The conditions make it especially important that skiers and snowboarders avoid closed trails and stay out of the trees.

“We have a lot of exposed rocks and trees out there,” Sierra-at-Tahoe spokesman Ben McLeod said. “We are just lucky that we haven’t had more people hurt.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe’s risk manager Marie Sweeney said she is pleased, but surprised, there haven’t been more injuries.

“We have bulletproof snow out there,” Sweeney said. “Basically it’s spring conditions out there. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

The rough conditions might be a blessing in disguise according to Shultz who thinks that hard snow is forcing skiers and snowboarders to be more cautious.

“In some ways it’s almost safer now than it normally would be,” Shultz said.

The ski patrol is out in force at Sierra-at-Tahoe trying to slow people down and make them aware of the conditions before they go out.

“If you fall” Shultz said, “not only is it going to hurt, you are going to slide much farther too.”

Shultz said that the more “armor” people wear the better, but Lawrence said that pads and helmets are not enough.

“A helmet isn’t a license to not pay attention to their behavior,” Lawrence said. “Everybody can have a good time and still slow down and watch out for others.”

In anticipation of large holiday crowds Sierra-at-Tahoe, which is 20 minutes from the nearest medical facility, has invited Barton Memorial Hospital to open a mobile clinic at the ski area.

A doctor trained in emergency medicine will man the clinic with a nurse and two technicians.

“It’s a 34-foot mobile home that has been converted to treat urgent-care-level patients,” said Mary Flores, Barton’s emergency room director.

The clinic will open Dec. 23 and operate through the end of the year, and will be open on holidays and weekends throughout the winter.

“(The mobile clinic) should help a lot of people avoid trips to the hospital,” Flores said.

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