Why Do We Ski?

By Asit Rathod

I thought my two hundredth ski down from the 11,239 foot summit of Oregon‘s crown jewel, Mount Hood, would have been a little different. It was a peaceful day with no wind, and the sun was shining down on me. Walking towards the summit I broke down and began to cry from the flood of emotions. I started thinking back on the years since my first summit and was amazed at what surfaced.

Sitting on the summit I could only remember less than a dozen epic ski descents out of two hundred. So the question hit me hard .... “Why have I kept coming back to this place so often if it wasn‘t about the skiing?” The tears slowly began turning into uncontrollable laughter as the memories of all the wild and special times came flooding back. In that moment it all made sense: it was never about summiting or the skiing.

The fact is I must have over five to six hundred times skiing from high on Mt. Hood. I have always followed two cardinal rules in the alpine: (1) safety, and (2) fun and happiness.
If neither of these rules are met, I‘m back at my car heading home to spend time with my loved ones.

Good friends enjoying two feet of fresh snow from the summit down Leuthold's Couloir (Photo: Asit Rathod)

Soaking in the sun that special day, I remembered the first time a climber was really mean to me for bringing my skis to the summit, because he felt it was dangerous and he would have to rescue me if I got hurt. I remembered skiing the north side naked for the first time just because I could. I remembered bringing up a stuffed Boobie Bird for the son of my love because he wanted his Boobie to get to the summit. I remembered watching a boy named Bryce become a man before my eyes while spreading the ashes of his father Mark Cartier, one of the greatest climbers I've ever known, on the summit. I remembered spreading the ashes of too many friends taken before their time. I remembered every smile of every friend who came with me to the summit for their first time. I remembered the faces of every friend who told me while standing on the summit that this was one of the greatest days of their lives.

We all go to the mountains for many different reasons. It can be to escape the humdrum of day to day life. It can be we are searching to understand ourselves just a little better. It can be to feel, just for a moment, like a superhero. It can be that we need to find a bit of happiness when it feels like the darkness of life is winning the battle.

 

Black McCoy coming through the Pearly Gates just shy of the summit (Photo: Asit Rathod)

What I know is the evolution of skiing and mountaineering has led us to this moment. It is no longer about being the first, the fastest, or who's done it the most often. It is about being like an artist entering the mountains with fluidity and harmony – matching the vibrations of this moment in our life with the alpine. We must respect the time we have been given by pushing the human spirit into places that once lived in our dreams. The Dali Lama has been asked many times “What is the meaning of life? He has always smiled and said “Happiness.” So what I do know now on my two hundredth summit that I did not know on my first is that we go to the mountains to find our happiness, because the future is beautiful, my friends.

About the author:
Asit Rathod grew up skiing on Mount Hood from the age of 5 He is a “suit” by day, but a big mountain athlete at heart. Asit spent 5 years skiing and climbing 200+ days a year between Chamonix, France and Las Lenas, Argentina. Having skied from Mt. Hood’s 11,239 foot summit over 210 times, he can be considered the snow sports ambassador to the state of Oregon. Asit works for Findlay of Wilsonville. He is a product ambassador for Volkl skis, TREW clothing, Zeal Optics, IceBreaker, and Naked Winery.

The Importance of Wearing a Helmet when Skiing

By Deanna Power

 

For most skiers, mountains are some of the most relaxing or thrilling places in the world. Unfortunately, skiing can be a dangerous activity as well. Accidents happen to even the most experienced skiers, and while most don’t result in fatal or even severe injuries, you’ll want to do all you can to protect yourself from potential harm. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is by wearing a helmet. A good helmet can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

Ski Helmets and Visibility Concerns

Some good news is that more than 90% of children wear helmets when skiing, according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Because children aren’t usually as skilled as adult skiers, this data shows parents are building a good foundation for safe skiing in the future.

The percentage of skiers who wear helmets drops into adulthood. Many adults mistakenly believe a ski helmet will reduce visibility and subsequently reaction time. People who believe this think a helmet would make accidents more likely.

Studies conducted by NSAA and Johns Hopkins University, among others, prove that nothing could be further from the truth. A proper ski helmet is designed and fitted in such a way that it doesn’t affect your vision. Instead, a ski helmet will greatly reduce the chances of a serious head injury.

Ski Accidents and Helmet Benefits

Head traumas can range from mild to severe and include everything from cuts, bumps, bruises, and concussions, all the way up to skull fractures or a traumatic brain injury. Even taking a light tumble against hard packed snow can cause injury to the head, which is why a helmet is such an important piece of any skier’s gear.

The most common head traumas that happen on the slopes are the less severe ones, and while these kinds of injuries are generally less frightening, they are nonetheless preventable in many cases. The New York Times reports that the increased use of ski helmets has reduced the incidence of skull fractures by as much as 50% in recent years.

 

Helmets are Catching On and Making a Difference

According to NSAA, in 2003 only about one quarter of all recreational skiers wore helmets. By 2013, the average helmet use at ski areas in the U.S. was up about 45%, with nearly 70% of skiers reporting regular use.

Although the greater number of people wearing helmets hasn’t decreased how frequently head injuries happen, it has lessened how many of those injuries are severe in nature. This is true especially for skull fractures and subdural hematomas, or bruising and bleeding inside the skull.

According to a 2011 study published in News Medical Journal, 5% of helmet wearers suffered skull fractures, as opposed to nearly 37% of non-helmeted skiers. Helmet use additionally influenced the severity of the fracture type, with non-helmeted skiers experienced a more dangerous, depressed skull fracture at rates about 60% higher those who wore helmets.

Other Safety Considerations

The benefits of helmet use have been the subject of significant debate for a number of years. Proponents note increased safety and a reduction in the number of severe injuries; while others worry skiers will take greater risks, believing helmets alone will protect them.

Although it may be true that some helmet wearers take greater risks, these same people are generally risk takers in all aspects of life, according to leading ski safety expert, Dr. Jasper Shealy of the Rochester Institute of Technology. The most severe injuries often occur with people who live a high-risk lifestyle and are equally likely to be severely injured while driving a car, riding a bike, or just crossing the street.

It’s also true that helmets can’t take the place of skier caution and attentiveness. After all, they aren’t a license to act irresponsibly when skiing, any more than wearing a seat belt while operating a car or truck is a license for reckless driving. When combined with a solid ski safety routine, helmets certainly make skiing a more enjoyable and safer experience.

Although helmets can’t stop all accidents from happening, they add to overall safety and cut down on the incidence of head injuries. They take nothing away from your appearance or your performance and don’t compromise vision or reaction time. When you weigh the evidence, there’s really no reason to take the chance of suffering a head trauma, particularly when quality ski helmets are so widely available on the market these days.

*This article was not written by a legal professional, and it is always up to you as to whether or not you wish to wear a helmet! Just keep in mind that helmets may save lives.

About the author:  Deanna Power works for Personal Injury Help , an independent organization located in Boston, providing people with the resources they need to protect their legal rights. She grew up riding the bunny slopes in central Maine. If you have any questions on this article, feel free to reach out to her at drp@personalinjury-law.org

Be Prepared for Your Winter Mountain Adventures!

By Sue Rimkeit, NWSCC Vice President

With high anticipation, you head off for a fun day in the mountains. However, one mishap could sink your plans. The slogan of the Scouts can save the day: Be Prepared. The following are tips for preparing your car for winter, things to pack in your car, driving tips, and what to do for you and your sports equipment.

Check your snow chains.

Get your car ready for winter. The tuneup should include checking the heater, battery/cables, antifreeze, window washer fluid (below zero, -25º), and winter wiper blades. How are your tires and chains? There are now two kinds of snow tires: studs that can be used in some states, and studless. If your tires have a snowflake, they are snow tires. Your tires need tread – check them. Be sure your chains/cables are in working order, with tighteners. Practice how to install them before you are marooned on a snowy road in a snowstorm! A ground cloth and gloves are handy, and a snowsuit you can shed when you get back in the car. Some other tools that should be in your car are a shovel, jack, lug wrench, Leatherman or similar tool, jumper cable and tow rope. You could end up helping another driver. The following are important safety items: first aid kit, flashlight, flares, bottle of sand/kitty litter (be your own sander), lighter/matches, candle, de-icer, ice scraper, cell phone/charger, whistle, blanket, reflective clothing/vest, long coat/boots, hand and toe warmers, water and food/protein bars.

On the road. Before you depart, have a new map and check road conditions. Be sure to tell a friend where you are going and a timeline. Fill your tank with gas, not you with alcohol. When you are on the road, the following are some safety tips: Leave early or late to avoid the rush, even consider taking a bus. Defense is the offense; others could be out of control. Some potential surprises lurk: ice, black ice, sloping icy pavement, drifts of snow, whiteouts.

The temperature matters. Outside temperature gauges (even after market) are very useful. At 32 degrees and above, mushy wet snow can give you a spin, while your tires will bite better on drier snow at colder temperatures. If you ride the center of your side and the edge, sometimes you get more bite with less fright. The tires of the cars in front of you can give you information; if spraying water it means wet, whereas snow sticking to the tires means it is drier. Leave tailgating for football, not the road. If stopping, be sure to be in full view of other cars and off the road. Use your flares if needed. Do not stop in an avalanche area. Treat the other drivers like you would like to be treated. Remember speed can kill, and also throws gravel and blinding snow. If you are a slow driver, let others pass in a safe place. The story of the tortoise and the hare can apply on the road. An accident or crash costs money, time, pain, suffering, and even death, with no re-do. If there is a traffic stop and blocked road, trying to go around could cause more problems. Waiting your turn is best.

You and your equipment. Your own body and equipment need pre-season preparedness. Have you worked on stretching, strength and cardio? Is your equipment in safe working order and still fits? Your local pro may need to do detail checks. Your outside clothing should be water repellant. You should wear a helmet which fits and has had no previous blows. Hand and toe warmers sure help. Sunglasses and goggles are a must to save your eyes from UV’s, stinging snow, and even low branches if you are in the trees.

Make sure you have helmets that fit you properly.

On the hill. So, you made it to the hill with all of your tuned equipment, fit body and mind. Skiers, like hikers and people who float on water, should have a handy whistle. Your voice does not carry and three blasts means help. In case of an accident or crash on the hill, the involved skiers and witnesses should exchange contact information.
Sooo, with preparedness and consideration of others, all should enjoy the winter...Think Snow!

The Mt. Hood Community Mourns the Death of Mike Heffernan

By Ben Jacklet
Excerpted from Ben Jacklet’s articles in ShredHood.org

Mike Heffernan shredding Mount Hood. Photo by Randy Boverman

Mike Heffernan shredding Mount Hood. Photo by Randy Boverman

Mount Hood’s one and only Mike Heffernan died on Friday, August 19, 2016, after suffering severe injuries in a motorcycle crash on Mt. Hood. He was 53.

Mike was a lifelong ski racer, an enthusiastic motorcyclist, a retired cop and a dedicated family man with an edgy sense of humor and a profound sense of loyalty. He is survived by his children Mac and Kennedy, his sister Colleen, his brother Tim, his parents Sheila and Mike, Sr. and a large community of friends and family.

Mike Heffernan grew up skiing on Mount Hood with his sister Colleen and his brother Tim and got deep into racing at Sun Valley in Idaho during high school. He graduated from Eastern Oregon State College in 1987 before embarking on a career in law enforcement, serving with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years.

Mike developed Young Onset Parkinson’s disease in his early 40s, but even after he retired from law enforcement he refused to give up the adrenaline-fueled activities that he loved. He continued to finish among the top racers in Schnee Vogeli Ski Club races, reveled in his epic motorcycle adventures, and tied for first in this year’s Ski to Defeat ALS vertical challenge at Mt. Hood Meadows. In winning the 2016 vertical challenge he skied nearly 60,000 feet in six hours while contending not only with his Parkinson’s, but also with a brutal bone spur on his foot that would later require surgery. He skied with intensity to win that trophy, and I am willing to bet that anyone who rode the lift with him that day remembers him vividly.

Mike was fascinated by the phenomenon that his Parkinson’s seemed to vanish at high speeds, enabling him to ski at 50 miles an hour or race his motorcycle at 120 miles an hour on the same day that he would freeze up so badly while just standing there that he would sometimes fall backwards and need help to get back up. Often he would catch his symptoms before they incapacitated him, and break into a vigorous run or calisthenics to fend them off. People sometimes thought he was joking or putting on an act, but he insisted it was real.

“When I can’t walk I can run,” he told me once. “As long as I am active, as long as I am using my mind and looking ahead and mentally interested in what’s going on, I have no symptoms. I can ride seven hours, eight hours, no problem.” 

Mike believed that downhill racing is “the most exhilarating thing you can do on skis,” which helps explain why he could still rip it in his 50s, with Parkinson’s.  Arcing a skid-free turn at high speed was embedded in his muscle memory, Parkinson's or no.

The Heffernan family asks that any donations be sent to Rock Steady Boxing, a Parkinson's support group made possible by Kimberly Berg, at 21983 S Sailing Rd, Estacada, OR97023, in honor of Michael V. Heffernan, Jr.

Rest in peace, Mike. We will miss you.

Excerpted from Ben Jacklet’s August 23, 2016 article in Shredhood.org

Ben wrote an earlier article about Mike, and what it is like to get Parkinson’s when you are young, what that disease takes away, and how people adapt and keep moving, sometimes in surprising ways. It is also a story about the importance of community.

NWSCC and PACRAT Elections June 21!

NWSCC OFFICER ELECTIONS - GET INVOLVED - WE NEED YOU!

Join the leadership of the Council – serving on the board of directors is a great way to get involved in club, council, and Far West Ski Association activities. The board is made up of members from different clubs in NWSCC -- bringing a variety of style and experience to the Council. All officer positions are open for one-year terms. The following officers will be voted upon at the June 21, 2017 meeting (location TBA). Each club has one vote, and each person can only vote on behalf of one club.

President: Head of the Council Executive Board; presides over meetings; assigns duties to Board members.

Vice President: Assumes duties of the president when needed and handles other duties as assigned.

Treasurer: Responsibility for Council financials.

Secretary: Records Council minutes and correspondence as needed; keeps corporate records.

At-Large Director (two positions): Duties as assigned by the President. [Other directors will be appointed by the elected Board to fill the slate.]

See the NWSCC bylaws (click HERE) for complete job descriptions.

Time involved: Quarterly Council meetings; a monthly board meeting; other duties as assigned or as you volunteer to work on.

If interested, please contact Sue Rimkeit (VicePres@nwskiers.org) for more information or to put your name on the ballot. We need your input and support, and want YOU to consider serving on the Board! PLEASE PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO YOUR FELLOW CLUB MEMBERS.

 

PACRAT elections will also be held at the June 21 meeting; the following are elected positions for the PACRAT Board:

✶ President

✶ Vice President

✶ Secretary

✶ Treasurer

✶ Party Director

✶ Sponsorship Director

✶ Director of Results

✶ Director of Racing

✶ Director of Membership

Also on the Board, but NOT elected, is the Immediate Past President. Appointed Positions are Director at Large - Chief Rat Patrol and Director at Large - General.

If you are interested in running for a PACRAT Board position for 2017-2018, please contact Andy Hobart at president@pacrats.org. Please provide information on what position you would like to run for and why you are interested in doing so. He will be assembling the ballot. You will need to be at the meeting to say a few words about why you'd like to run and what you plan to do, or have someone else show up and speak on your behalf.

Who votes in PACRAT Elections?

The clubs must decide on who gets to vote for the club teams. Usually it is the Team Captains, but in cases where there are more teams than votes available, only the number of votes designated for that club may be cast. ALL team captains CAN be there to caucus, but your club can only cast the proper number of votes.

✶ Mountain High 5 votes

✶ Cascade 3 votes

✶ Skiyente 2 votes

✶ Schnee Vogeli 2 votes

✶ Bergfreunde 1 vote

2017 FWSA Convention will be in Boise!

Far West’s 85th Annual Convention:  The 85th Annual Far West Ski Association Convention will be held June 7-11, 2017, in beautiful Boise, Idaho, at the Grove Hotel and Boise Centre.  The theme is ”BOisE IS…”  with the event being co-hosted by Bogus Basin Ski Club and Intermountain Ski Council. Their Convention Committee has been hard at work planning activities and events to keep everyone busy for the four days we will be there.  The resort is located minutes from the airport, in the heart of downtown Boise, so there will be plenty to do, whether you are doing a Far West activity, or just want to take some free time to shop and see the town. 

Lodging at our group rate (single or double occupancy for $134 per night plus tax) is available at The Grove Hotel in Downtown Boise three days pre and post convention, based on availability.  Per our contract, we have NO RESORT FEES and Wi-Fi is FREE in the guest rooms. For room reservations, call the Grove Hotel at 888-961-5000 and refer to our group name: “Far West Ski Association.”  You can also register online at the FWSA room reservation site located HERE. 

Proposed optional activities include A Taste of Idaho (Wednesday); Rafting on the Payette River and a Wine Wobble & Pub Crawl (Thursday); and the 11th Annual Michael German Memorial Golf Tournament, A Day on the Mountain, Boise Greenbelt Biking, and a Fountain Party (Friday).  Friday night will be the annual Silent Auction & Dance, where you can bid on ski trips, tickets, and gear, which usually are sold at a fraction of their value!  

Registration will be available and payable via PayPal or snail mail using the PDF Registration Form on the FWSA website.  

For additional information, visit the FWSA website (www.fwsa.org).  Further information will be posted as it becomes available.  Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to attend our FIRST-EVER Convention in Boise. Boise has cultural attractions like the Basque Block, Ballet Idaho, Trey McIntyre Project, the symphony, the opera and museums. Come early - stay late and enjoy all that Boise and its surrounding area has to offer.  

FWSA Individual and Club Recognition Awards

Every year at the FWSA Convention individuals are awarded prizes in special categories sponsored by partner ski areas and lodging properties.  The deadline to apply is March 26, 2017.  Individual awards (with prizes!) that are well worth entering are for the following:  

Far West Council's Man & Woman of the Year:  The FWSA Council Man and Woman of the Year are chosen by their peers based on their contributions to Clubs, Council, Race League, FWSA and nationally.  The award is presented to both an outstanding man and woman at the grassroots level. Selection criteria is based on each individual's involvement in skiing; club, council, regional and national activities; and knowledge and enthusiasm for the snowsports. Candidates should have awareness of Far West programs and, in particular, its public affairs involvement.  The Award covers the last five years only.  New last year, the Man and Woman of the Year candidate from each council will be reimbursed for one night at the FWSA convention hotel at the early bird convention rate.  The prize has been sponsored by Big White Ski Resort since 2001, and is a 5-day trip for two, including lodging, lifts, and rentals.  The 2016 FWSA Woman of the Year was our own Colleen Stroeder.  NWSCC Clubs need to provide the names of their own Man and Woman of the Year to the NWSCC Board by March 16, 2017.

Safety Person of The Year Award:  This yearly award honors the person who has done the most to promote safety consciousness within the association.  This can be done through a variety of methods including safety articles, on-mountain activities, presentations, public speaking, working ski patrol, creating posters or banners, and many other activities.  Sponsored by Telluride Ski Resort & Mountain Lodge Telluride since  – the winner is awarded a 5-night/4 day ski package for two in Telluride with lodging and lift tickets.  Last year's winner was our own NWSCC Vice President Sue Rimkeit, for her many safety tips, quips, and articles published by NWSCC.  
 
Western Ski Heritage Award:  The purpose of the Far West Western Ski Heritage program is to raise the awareness of skiers and non-skiers alike of the contributions made by individuals, groups, or companies to all aspects of skiing – competitive as well as outdoor winter recreation and fitness.  A parallel purpose of this award is to convey the positive role skiing has had in its contributions to the communities in the West.  The prize is open to an individual or a group leader (not restricted to FWSA members) and can be self-nominated or nominated by a club or club member.  The prize is awarded on the basis of a history product or a work in progress.  Sponsored by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation since 2000, the winner is awarded a five-day ski package for two in Steamboat with lodging, lift tickets, rentals, lesson, lunch, and more! 

Environment Award:  The Environment Award is designed to encourage good stewardship of our environment. We want to inspire and reward creative efforts to conserve and protect our environment. This award should recognize a special action that the applicant took, or something he or she put in place that made a difference. Some areas to consider are: Volunteering at the community level – particularly in some leadership role; conducting or arranging for an environmental oriented event(s) – either for club, council or public; writing a series of columns regarding environmental conservation, education or protection in your ski club or council newsletters; being proactive in environment protection.  Sponsored by Aspen/Snowmass, The Gant, and The Crestwood – the winner is awarded a 5-day ski package for two in Aspen/Snowmass with lodging split between The Gant in Aspen and The Crestwood Condominium Hotel in Snowmass, including lift tickets, rentals, and group lesson.

Charities and Community Service Recognition Program FWSA encourages all clubs and councils to get involved with charities and community service. The Charities and Community Service Recognition Program has been recognizing clubs for their charitable work at each convention for the past ten years.  The Charity Recognition Program has created two different levels of application for Clubs: the Diamond and Double Diamond awards. Any Club that has won first place in this wonderful recognition program in a past year will apply in the Double Diamond category. All other Clubs will be in the Diamond category.  The two separate levels will hopefully give all groups an added incentive to apply, and then to apply again. Each Club category will have a first and second place winner. The Council category will recognize a first-place winner.  FWSA has not yet determined how the winners will be recognized, but certainly, it will be special!  Please stay tuned.  The top two Clubs in each category and the winning Council will be invited to display a picture board at Convention.  All groups that apply will be recognized at Convention.  For any Charity & Community Service questions, contact Sigrid Noack at skisig@gmail.com.

Far West Club/Council History Recognition:  In 2008 Far West launched this program to develop club, league and council histories. The objective of the annual program is to capture important information about skiing from the skier’s perspective and especially that of the club skier.  Selection for the award is based on digital (preferable) or mailed presentation of club or council history according to a set of weighted criteria and judged by knowledgeable ski historians.

Far West Historic Ski Clubs:  Clubs with over 50 years of operation may be designated as a FWSA Historic Ski Club. The club must provide proof of operations with the request for this designation.  Proof may be articles of incorporation, minutes, press clippings or other significant historic evidence and may be 1 to 10 pages of copied material.  The applying club will be required to provide a reproducible logo.

NWSCC encourages ALL of our member clubs to consider entering these competitions!!  Go to the FWSA website under Awards for full details and application materials.  We want to see OUR clubs as winners at Convention!  

FWSA Outstanding Club, Communication, and Website Awards - Entry Instructions

NWSCC encourages all member clubs to enter your club into the FWSA Awards Competitions to recognize how great YOUR club is!  

The 2017 application procedures have been greatly simplified to encourage more club and council entries. Clubs and councils do not need to submit judges. Your council presidents have formed a committee of judges; however, we will happily accept volunteers. If you haven’t entered for a while, please look at this year’s procedures and consider entering your club or council.  Your deadline for entry is March 26, 2017, to enter your club for any of these awards.

Outstanding Club Award. The number of criteria to be addressed have been reduced. To apply, provide the information for your club under each of the criteria in the .pdf document HERE and email to Paul Vlasveld, pvlasveld@comcast.net.

Club and Council Newsletter Awards. Submit ONE* newsletter in any of the following forms: 1) Any electronic format such as .pdf file, link to newsletter on website, or Word document. Email to Paul Vlasveld, pvlasveld@comcast.net.  2) Hard copy mailed to Paul Vlasveld, 789 Daffodil Way, San Jose, CA 95117.  *Newsletters will be judged according to the criteria attached HERE. Submit what you think is the edition that is the best version that will match up with the criteria. You have until the submission due date (March 26, 2017) to make adjustments if you so desire.

Club and Council Website Award. Send link to your website to Paul Vlasveld, pvlasveld@comcast.net. Websites will be judged according to the criteria attached HERE.

Classes for Competition: Clubs submitting entries for the three above awards will be entered in the following classes for competition:
Novice: Clubs who either have never entered or haven’t placed for the past 4 years.
Advanced: Clubs who have won second and third place during the past 4 years.
Masters: Clubs who have won first place during the past 4 years.

Winners are given a seal for placement on website and/or in publications. Winners also receive a certificate fit for framing.