Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why are there no beacon/GPS clips on the ski slopes?

Way off the topic of gardening today, but due to the recent deaths of two local people snow skiing I got to wondering : Why don't ski resorts 'build in' beacons and or GPS devices into the skiers lift ticket ?

In the early 90's I was fortunate to go snow skiing in Switzerland. I started out skiing with new found friends but out paced them and went off on my own. It was a dream of mine to ski Zermatt and the Matterhorn and I wanted to 'really ski'.
When I attained my ski lift ticket I was handed a beacon. It was the size of a Bic lighter and I thought it was a pretty good idea.
How little did I know at that point in the morning how important a beacon could be.
Several hours into my joyous day of skiing on top of the worlds most beautiful glacier I found myself dangling 15 feet off the ground while taking a ground based pulley lift up the glacier. Part of the mountain had slid away. I didn't know if I should jump off the tow bar that was now wedge up my butt crack or hold on for dear life. I ended up jumping off when the the tow bar came closer to the ground. It was a good feeling to feel the ground beneath my skis.

Later on that same day I felt the oddest feeling. I was skiing across the mountain but the snow in front of me was moving. In a blink of an eye I realized I was in an avalanche. Out of shear luck I skied down and across with the slide and ended up on my butt surrounded by a foot of snow that was not moving.

I was totally dazed. My heart was pounding and my nervous system was freaking wacked out.
As I surveyed the site I visually found the ski lift and headed for it, following it down to the small hut that was stationed next to the load up ramp. No one was there. ( WTF ! ) I then took the trail back down to base camp. Along the way I noticed that something was glowing - the beacon.
I got to the base camp and was asked some questions and was accounted for.
I sat down, ordered a hot drink and decided I had enough skiing for awhile.
When leaving I handed over the now silent lifeless beacon, knowing that it may have saved my life if the snow had decided to roll a little differently.

I can't help wondering if the two skiers who recently lost their lives would be alive now if they had a gps beacon that would lead rescuers to them before they had died. The technology is there, why isn't is being used ?
If you ski alone or in sanctioned out of bounds areas, please take your cell phone or investigate getting a beacon.

Photo taken at base camp, Zermatt, Switzerland.
From Untitled Album


rebecca sweet said...

What a timely post, Michelle. I spent the day skiing yesterday up here at Tahoe, where a snow storm moved in and made it a little 'hairy' to say the least. I LOVE your idea of a beacon/lift ticket combo. And I'm so glad you made it through your harrowing experience to write this post!! That would've been enough skiing for me for a lifetime, that's for sure!

danger garden said...

It seems every year there is a near miss (or unfortunately a death) on Mt Hood when a skier gets lost or stranded. The GPS/beacon debate comes up again and is then dismissed. One of the common arguments against is that with a beacon people will become even more daring and fool hardy. I think the folks behind that argument are the same ones that think if you teach kids about safe sex that just means they'll have sex. Where as you if you tell them nothing they'll remain abstinent.

phrago said...

"if you teach kids about safe sex that just means they'll have sex. Where as you if you tell them nothing they'll remain abstinent."

That rational didn't work on anyone I know.

Michelle, Look at you with your pretty red hair! Are you of Irish or Scottish decent...

NotSoAngryRedHead said...

Sometimes I wish I could ski, but it's becoming more and more rare.

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Hi all.
Loree, I just don't get that type of logic.
It's like these folks are still thinking like they in the bronze age.

patrick - Irish - I'm a great granddaughter of John Lally the Irish inventor who immigrated to Waltham Massachusessetts from Galway . He was a masonry contractor and designed and invented a bunch of construction related tools, most notably the Lally column, which can be purchased via the Simpson ( as in Simpson strong ties ) catalog .

On the other side I am Swiss.