I haven't been to Whiteface with the Slides open since '98 when they had a ski patroller sitting there eying you up and down so he could determine whether, in his judgment, you looked like you were capable of handling them. Does Whiteface have an ominous sign, like the one at the entrance to The Rumor, warning people what lies in store?
Wisdom lies at the end of a path that starts with bad judgment. Too often, an individual's bad judgment can cut that path short. Seems that some of the people on the Slides this weekend used really bad judgment or none at all. I agree that you'll never improve if you don't push yourself, but you must have a realistic idea of your own limitations.
What's wrong with baby steps?
"They don't think it be like it is, but it do." Oscar Gamble
One problem here is the culture of eastern skiing led by the ski areas themselves. There is no reputable and consistent label or warning for terrain that is truly beyond the scope of 90% of skiers. Instead, we have a "relative to other mountains" trail rating system in which almost any intermediate with a basic parallel and side step can survive an open double diamond trail.
Relative trail rating systems are FINE and perhaps the best way. The problem is that terrain such as the Slides is even on the map at all. I bet Stowe would have a lot of problems on their hands if they "opened" the climbing gully and put stuff off the Chin "on the map" and rated them double diamond. You don't see hackers hiking out to Big Jay either.
While neither are nearly accessible as the Slides, by putting it on map and slapping a double diamond on them, Whiteface has effectively said "you can survive this if you can ski off the Summit Quad" because that is how most people will understand it. Especially considering that Slide 1 is merely a more topographically interesting version of Skyward with similar pitch. Folks can easily get a little high on the horse after surviving 1 & 2 but 3 and especially 4 up the ante considerably.
It is like a dare seeing that on the map to some people. I should know. A dozen years ago, I thought I was hot shit when I started skiing double diamonds. Ooooooooohh. But it really is what gets into the head of many skiers. You don't want to be left out of the party and you desperately want to be able to ski everything on the mountain even if your skills don't let you do it very well.
Perhaps putting something like The Slides on the map and plastering a double-diamond label on it is invitation for people to get in over their heads, but I don't think that means truly challenging terrain doesn't belong on a trail map-- even in the east.
Western ski areas are confined to the same relative trail rating system used in the east, and a double black diamond in the west can express an arguably broader range of difficulty. There are the same overly confident skiers, some visiting fresh from their favorite eastern hill, who attempt terrain they aren't capable of skiing. Yet, the trend has been for western areas to expand and put more extreme terrain on the map. Surely they have situations where skiers get injured skiing this terrain, but the vast majority are humbled at most-- just like they were this weekend in the Slides.
I know at the Loaf they usually post a patroller at the hiking entrance to the true summit. As you walk past him he'll make some comments about the status of what lies ahead, usually emphasizing things like "exceptionally thin cover", "very big bumps", or lots of ice/boulder---just serves a quick gut check to potential hikers and I'm sure more than a few have changed their minds as a result.
What'd be interesting as well is how they've handled their expansion over onto Burnt Mountain this year and how they've kept some of the hackers out. You could get in serious trouble out there--big area, lots of trees/cliffs, not a lot of traffic, no cleared trails, and now it's on the map!
earlier this year i took my 7 year old into the slides and the patroller at the enterance questioned me on his ability. He is very strong 7 yr old skier you can rip anything on the mt including the woods. That was his first time in the slides as i had been waiting until the conditions were good and i felt he was way more than ready to handle it. There are a small handful of local kids in this boat and another patroller knew him and vouched for him. that said i would be very skeptical of any kid under 12 that did not have a Cloudsplitter or Nysef season pass going in there. I did not see Patrol actively managing who was entering the slides this weekend and think that needs to be beeffed up given the low level of some folks in there
I saw a kid doing wedge turns in slide 1 on Sunday. Those parents must have been on drugs. I have lots of respect for the slides and have had a few pucker moments myself in there. its not a place to learn because its lessons can be very hard. if that wedge turning kids on sunday would have gotten seriously hurt the slides would have been shut down for the rescue plus it would jepordize my sons chances of skiing the slides in the future.
I took my 9-year old son to Slide 2 on Saturday. He is a Gore's Mountain Adventure All season program graduate for 2 years, skiing all over mountain. He didn't have problem skiing slide, he didn't like sidestepping up traverse though, so we just did one run.
I question though the patrol's decision to shut down slides due to injured skier rescue.