Recently, I had the chance to head on a skiing adventure with a local Boy Scout troop. One of the lessons they teach early on is the use of the buddy system (TL;DR Always have someone with you, especially during high-risk activities).
So In theory
In theory, this basic principle allows for improved safety, and the two may be able to prevent the other becoming a casualty, or rescue the other in a crisis. In Alpine conditions, where rescue could be delayed for a prolonged time, this system is critical to ensuring participant safety.
What Actually Hapens
When participants aren’t careful (think younger age groups), they end up splitting up. Groups want to do different things, they have people skiing at different ability levels and speeds, and forgetfulness often tries to negate the benefits.
How this came into play
I had spent the early morning skiing with my buddy (both of us with similar skill and speed), when we approached a S-turn where the Salamander (“Green”, Beginnger)trail merges with Off the Wall (“Double Black, Hardest) At that turn was a solo skier, who took the turn, but made three critical mistakes.
- Turned Too Fast: this turn is much tighter than the map leads to be, requiring skiers to slow down to turn properly.
- Improper Turn: the skier wasn’t fully aware about their abilities, and while at high speed, tried to turn, but ended up crossing their skis in the process, throwing them off balance.
- Improper Fall: this article goes into better detail about the correct way to fall (forwards), rather than sideways onto the side of the slope (and their body).
Buddy System to the Rescue
When this skier went down, my buddy and I both stopped to see what we could do. When I determined the injury was severe enough to warrant additional help, I was able to have my buddy go for help, while I stayed with the victim. We were never able to locate the solo skier’s buddy, even though they claimed to have two with them.
Aftermath & Lessons Learned
Eventually, ski patrol arrived, and were able to transport to the base of the mountain. A field diagnostic returned a possible Tibia fracture/break (much worse than the twisted ankle that was originally though).
The second man with me was critical to getting the skier off the mountain in time. By being able to stay with the skier, it was possible to prevent someone from running them over and/or additional damage to be caused, while still having help arrive on-scene in a timely manner. So don’t go it alone, bring a second with you. It may very well help save someone else, or even you.