If you look at an earlier post, you will see the picture above of Corbett’s Couloir at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is a very famous ski run where the conditions dictate the severity of the descent. Sometimes it is full of snow and no issue, other times it is rock hard, very steep, and with rock walls all around, you have to really consider the first couple of turns. Now I referred to the situation of risk versus reward in cases like this especially for a 58 year old kid. Equipment, technique, and experience keep me in the game. But in some instances, we need to evaluate whether the reward is worth the risk of meeting the rock walls head on compounded with a slide for life? Most times, experience and mojo win out but there have been times when I have said…………nah………..not today. I remember having a bad feeling at Alta, Utah with my friend Eric Durfee as we traversed above a cliff area. We know Alta pretty well but this was new to us and as we went further accross the area, I had this eerie feeling that if we went down, we would not be in a good place. As it turns out, we turned back and when we looked at it from the chair on the next run, Eric said to me that had we continued, we would have faced an 800 foot drop and most likely would not have been able to climb back up the area to safety. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut!
Now if you look at the next picture, you will see another condideration that I have faced when mountain biking out west. There are big cats out there who are rather fickle in their approach to humans. Most often they avoid us but sometimes, we may look appealing around their feeding time. I have a T-shirt which says,” Bears like me………I taste like chicken.” Bears are one thing and black bears generally avoid you but I am not so sure about the feline 150# muscular killing machines that roam the ledges of the American West. Again- it is a risk versus rewards situation in that you would love to ride some of the remote trails in the region but when these signs appear at trailside, you pay attention. I either ride with someone or I ride trails that are fairly well populated. A couple of years ago, a group of us entered a trail running race called the Colorado Relay. It was a 24 hour team relay that went from Georgetown, Colorado accross 4 passes and ended up in Carbondale. We all had to do some night laps with headlamps and I don’t mind saying that I thought of this sign during the remote evening runs. Fortunately, there were enough other runners to make it relatively safe, but nonetheless, it was a risk versus rewards consideration at the very least.
Rattlesnakes are another risk versus rewards consideration when hiking, or mountain biking in the west. As the signs usually say, they are members of the community and to be aware of their presence. We are to respect them but there are trails where you just can’t help but run into them. I have given them a wide berth and I never get close to them. They don’t like me and really want to avoid me, and the last thing I want to do is bother them. You have to be aware if you venture into snake country. Beautiful rewards of great vistas but the risk is ever present.
Bottom line here is that common sense is a value that I have developed over my 58 years of adventure. My experience tells me that I can handle challenges on the slopes and trails but common sense tells me that sometimes the risk is not worth the reward. I have to work, I have to live to ski or ride another day. Sometimes that ultra steep rocky descent on a mountain bike may be great bragging rights in the bar at night. But the peril of a broken collar bone or worse may be a consideration especially to a 58 year old adventurer. Don’t get me wrong, I still like challenges and adventure but I have learned to temper my zeal with common sense and look to the bigger picture. My wife and son are always glad that I return in one piece. I like the challenge of skiing steeper terrain and riding for exercise. I leave the hucking to the younger generation. I am amazed by what I see these days on You Tube. There is a lot of bravado and perilous decisions that make the videos and the rewards are often just the fact that they can be seen by thousands on You Tube. What is done on a mountain bike and on a pair of skis these days is really amazing considering I thought a back flip by Wayne Wong when I was a kid was out of this world. Now they are flipping off of 80 foot cliffs and skiing away from it. They are jumping the same types of distances on long travel bikes, landing it and riding away. Unreal. Not for me. I am a kid at heart…..but nonetheless a 58 year old kid who knows better. Thanks for reading and have fun but use good judgement.