OPINION: Two broken legs won't get you far. But a positive attitude can.
The rescue of seasoned 72-year-old US skier Toby Kravet after a frozen night in the Gottlieb's Saddle, near Wanaka, comes as a relief for all involved.
Even accepting the conditions of poor visibility, the Treble Cone operators will be concerned that a patron was able to get so disoriented getting off the Saddle Basin chairlift, in mid-afternoon, that he turned left instead of right and ended up well outside the boundary.
Thumping into a snowdrift, Mr Kravet broke both legs and spent the rest of the day and the night in sub-zero temperatures. A hard night indeed, but the nuggety old skier must have dug deep to fend off the dangers of hypothermia, waving his arms around in exercises to keep himself awake.
The rest of us would surely like to think that we could have done the same to resist the temptations of a sooky sleep - very much the wrong thing in those circumstances. Then again, there's a lot to be said for keeping ourselves in situations where we'll never know for sure.
Southern skifields are alert and reactive to such emergencies, but this story serves as a reminder that help can be a while coming, even so, and there's a lot people can do on their own behalf; not the least of which is keeping spirits up as much as humanly possible.
Another cautionary tale arose when two Aussie snowboarding brothers found themselves stranded off-piste on The Remarkables a year ago.
They had headed off to explore higher ground, became disoriented, and found themselves bluffed with a massive drop below. Not good - but at least they were able to use a cameraphone first to call help and then, by its flash, to indicate their position to a search helicopter. So phones are good things.
As is a bit of attention to detail, even a little humility, when it comes to recognising and accepting that some areas are designated no-go for a really good reason.
It's not yet a year since we ran reports of a couple witnessing a significant avalanche on The Remarkables - an area they had seen people hiking daily.
Then last October we had a Japanese skier rescued unharmed after venturing off-piste at Treble Cone.
A few months before that a Queenstown snowboarder riding outside the Coronet Peak boundary was picked up, sheltering under a bush, by a chopper with night-vision gear. The secondary lesson from that one was that when snowboarders and skiers are unsure abut the terrain, they should backtrack, not press on.
Skifield boundaries are clearly marked and if people do decide to hit the back-country they should sign in, travel in groups, and sign out. And if at any point they find themselves needing to trudge back a ways then, OK, you're not required to be pleased about that. But there are worse things.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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