Utah hospitals are full. Should you really ski?

There’s another big winter storm rolling through northern Utah this weekend. Twelve-twenty inches are forecast, with 100% chance of snow.

Cause for frothing celebrations and some early powder lines normally, no problem (well, apart from normal precautions – see the embed at bottom from Jeremy Jones for some common sense advice on those).

Nice dose of the ‘Greatest Snow On Earth’ for Utah © National Weather Service

But last night Utah Governor Gary Herbert was announcing Utah hospitals are effectively full.

They are running out of intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients. The CNN feature with the Governor’s announcement also covers a sad story of a lady who lost her mother and grandfather on the same day, and medical expert’s views on just how dire the hospital situation is there.

To quote the Salt Lake City Tribune,

“His big concern is the surge in hospitalizations that may soon overwhelm doctors and nurses.”

Utah’s new “State of Emergency” measures in force since last Sunday don’t look very serious compared to what Aussies or Kiwis have experienced. Not much is actually prohibited – there are just limitations on numbers and recommendations. Let’s hope they do work, limited as they are.

One bizarre example, the big Rose Bowl college football game scheduled for this weekend got cancelled not because of restrictions, but because one team couldn’t muster the 53 COVID-free players (yep, take note league players past and present, 53 with only 11 actually on the paddock at a time..) required for a game roster.

So what does this have to do with pow days and amazing Utah skiing?

Here’s the thing, if hospitals are full, the last thing they need are skiers or snowboarders with trauma injuries requiring surgery and attention.

Early season powder at Alta
Early season can be awesome at Alta © Alta

Major resorts like Park City and Alta are set to open over the next week to 10 days, while others like Brighton are set to open even sooner as snow conditions allow. The resorts of course are doing all they can, with COVID plans in place etc.

But while current restrictions don’t stop you from going skiing there, should you? Would you?

A moral dilemma. Of course those confident in their abilities won’t see it as a problem, but early season always accentuates the dangers with exposed or barely covered rocks and tree hazards. And plenty of great skiers get hurt too.

The question is academic for most reading this, since we can’t leave the country. If it was Australia or New Zealand the choice wouldn’t arise, because we would be in lockdown long before numbers got anywhere near what they are in Utah and across America. As happened in Victoria for most of the ski season. Equally, our hospital systems consequently never got close to the critical overload situation facing Utah.

Sometimes there are more important things in life than powder lines. What would you do? – Owain Price

For early season/pre season safety take on board some tips from the man himself, Jeremy Jones: