words :: Ben Osborne // cover photo :: courtesy of Red Bull.
COVID-19 has taken over the news streams, our personal lives, and the lives of everyone around us. As outdoor enthusiasts, we have a pre-programmed response: Go get some fresh air and get away from it all. It seems harmless—a solo bike ride or ski tour won’t harm anyone and should only boost our immune systems and keep us mentally healthy.
But what happens if things go wrong?
Most of the sports we partake in—biking, skiing, climbing, hiking, and more—are dangerous on numerous levels. This may be due to their high intensity, remoteness, or a combination of the two. Any health complication undoubtedly puts a burden on our healthcare system, and with hospitals in the coming days likely to see far more traffic, putting yourself at risk could be considered an unnecessary risk.
In Italy, the situation is far worse than in most places. So bad that hospitals eventually became overcrowded to the point that “ventilators became like gold” according to Dr. Daniele Macchini, an Italian physician who published a long Facebook post about her working conditions. Patients were unable to be taken care of, and Italy quickly became the epicentre for the virus.
For many people in British Columbia, as the snow melts away in the valley and ski resorts shut down due to the spread of the virus, biking seems like a safe escape to clear your mind—but is that in the best interest of the health system?
A recent study conducted by the Enduro World Series clearly demonstrates the dangers of riding a bike—even for professionals. While most injuries are minor, is your broken clavicle an unnecessary burden on your local hospital’s already dire situation?
For the biking mecca of Squamish, it is. The local hospital has already reached out to the SORCA, expressing the fact that they “do not have the capacity to deal with mountain bike-related injuries”, and specifically requested that the local trails association spread the word.
For ski touring, a similar situation arises—if you get into trouble, the burden falls on search and rescue, your local hospital, and eventually rest of your community. Is that worth it?
There’s nothing wrong with getting out, getting some fresh air, and getting some exercise. In fact, it will be vital during this time of social separation and for some, quarantine. The most important thing is taking care of yourself, and those close to you.
But, in the age of social media, as athletes, influencers, and brands set the example urging their followers to get out and self-distance, it’s important to emphasize playing within your own ability more than ever. Consider what types of activities you choose to do, and how you do them. Because when things go wrong, they could have an effect on someone who is in much worse shape than you. Your surroundings are more important than ever, and now is the time to pay attention. —ML