How To Stay Safe On The Slopes This Year

By Denise McLaughlin

 This image is of Ski Patroller Denise McLaughlin.

Staying Safe On The Slopes This Year

All skiers and boarders should know the Responsibility Code:

  • Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  • People ahead of you have the right of way.  It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  • You must not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above.
  • Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  • Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  • Observe all posted signs and warnings.  Keep off of closed trails and out of closed areas.
  • Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

The biggest issue I have observed is people starting downhill from a rest break, or merging in from a side trail, and not looking uphill to make sure they are merging into the run safely.  Always look uphill!  You don’t want to be clobbered by someone speeding down the hill going for gold.

AD Skullcandy use

To avoid injuries this season, get in shape!  Skiing or boarding is much more enjoyable when you are in shape and not gasping for air or having to stop multiple times down the run.  Skiing and boarding require a great deal of anaerobic effort, strength and flexibility.  You want to target your conditioning to meet those needs.  Add some intervals into your runs, do hill sprints or join a ski conditioning class.

Unfortunately, injuries do happen.  Leg injuries are common with both skiers and snow boarders.  Snow boarders tend to have more wrist injuries as they use their hands to catch themselves when they fall.  Shoulders and arms may also be subject to injury.  Always wear your helmet to avoid head injuries!

When it’s late in the day and you are contemplating ‘just one more run’ take a moment to do a self-assessment.  Many times when we think we have one more run in us, we are usually already spent.  We’d be better off saving that run for another day and head into the lodge to enjoy a favorite beverage with friends.  Know you limits and don’t get caught up with the crowd.

Changing conditions can create additional risks.  Light changes and snow consistency changes are both challenging in our sport.  As temperatures drop, realize that the soft snow you have been riding or skiing on all day is going to firm up.  Conversely, as temperatures warm during the day you will find that the firm snow you have been having fun on all morning is now turning to mush.  Being able to adapt to the changing conditions will help you stay safe.  Sometimes it is best just to slow down.  Take a ski lesson to help overcome any issues you have in adverse snow conditions.

Ah, the allure of untracked snow.  Backcountry access gates are provided at many ski areas however, backcountry areas are not controlled or patrolled.  Venturing outside of ski area boundaries requires proper avalanche training.  Take a standard Avalanche Level 1 course at a minimum.  Practice with your avalanche gear and make sure your snow buddies do the same.  Never venture out with someone that is untrained.  Your life is in their hands.

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