It’s nearly Gay Ski Week in Queenstown. Such fun, whizzing down those pristine slopes in one of the most beautiful places in the world… perfection!
Of course there will be some people who want to enhance this experience with an assortment of recreational drugs, but will it really enhance the experience? What are the risks?
One way to consider this is a risk analysis. In the outdoors this is called the Risk Analysis Management System (RAMS). In this system, all hazards are considered, both major and minor. The founders of this system rationalise that if there are enough minor hazards, then the likelihood of an accident is high, even though each of the hazards in themselves are not significant. The analogy is like the lemons on a slot machine (which is usually a good thing) – you win! In this case however, if all the lemons line up, it is nearly guaranteed that there will be an accident.
So what are the ‘lemons’ to be considered on the slopes?
1. Fatigue – Skiing and snowboarding are full on physical activities. Combine this with the inevitable socialising and most people will experience fatigue. It is fairly obvious that if you are fatigued and you add alcohol (say a drink or two at lunch or a swig from that trusty hip-flask) that you will be increasing the likelihood of an accident. Then there are the other recreational drugs. Although there are stories of Japanese fighter pilots taking methamphetamine to increase their performance, they were taking very controlled doses in controlled environments. You will find that stimulants will increase confidence, but I am not sure if that is always a good idea on a ski field. There has not been a lot of research about this topic – but one New Zealand study found nearly half of drivers killed on New Zealand roads had alcohol, other drugs or both in their systems when they crashed. One in five of these drivers had used cannabis, over a quarter had used a combination of alcohol and cannabis and another quarter had some other combination of drugs in their systems. It is also important to consider that the come down period from any stimulant drug is the most dangerous time to be engaging in any activity that requires concentration.
2. Ability – I am sorry to say that all recreational drugs impair your ability. They may give you a feeling of confidence, but the reason they are fun is that they change your perception, make you feel ‘unreal’ or ‘out of it’. This is fine if you are in a safe environment, but the mountain slopes can be a very dangerous place!
3. Other people on the ski field – You need your wits about you to dodge those maniacs!
4. Weather – The weather on mountains can change in an instant, turning what was a relatively benign environment to a very cold, windy one where you need to be ‘onto it’ to get out of it safely (the weather I mean…).
Above are just some things to consider if you are going to ‘partake’ when on the ski field. Of course it’s your choice; just make sure you are making this choice consciously and with accurate information (including your own ability at skiing/snowboarding). It takes a long time to rehabilitate from a skiing or snowboarding ‘accident’. If I were you I would do everything I could to make sure I eliminated as many ‘lemons’ as I could to stay safe in the snow.
| Diana Rands
If you have concerns about your own or someone else’s alcohol or other drug use or if you’d like more information, contact CADS on 09 845 1818 or www.cads.org.nz or if you live outside Auckland contact Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797.