A friend and I skied together on Friday and spent a lot of time talking about safety on the mountain. We both have kids and have experienced our fair share of near misses as our kids have come through the ranks of skiing over the last decade. We don’t want to scare our kids out of skiing or squash their fun, but they need to learn early on (and all the time thereafter) the rules. I reminded my kids each and every time we are out there (“we know mama”). Adults need a refresher, too.
While we fully understand and respect the inherent risk that comes with the sport, with increasing crowds on the mountain there is even more opportunity for collisions. So many of these incidents have the potential to be prevented.
Safety has always been, and will continue to be, a priority as we teach our kids. From day one, we have taught them to look uphill when coming to a trail merge, that you are responsible for being aware of everything going on next to you and in front of you. That if you are popping out of the trees somewhere that it is your job to slow down and stop to make sure there is no one on the trail. We teach them to always follow the “slow” signs and come into the lift line slowly.
There are a lot of skiers out there (and sadly, there is currently seems to be a lot of celebration about this type of behavior) that think if they are in control they can speedily bomb down these green runs that everyone has to take to get to the bottom of the hill. But, skiing, as is life, is unpredictable. Beginner skiers are unpredictable! Conditions on the mountain are unpredictable. Just because a skier is able to be in “control” doesn’t mean they should be skiing that way down these high traffic thoroughfares accessed by everyone that needs to get back down to the base.
What we have taught our kids is that ultimately, they need to assume that no one is watching out for them and they need to have their heads on a swivel at all times. We still ski together and I keep a tight watch all around, skiing behind them and always checking up hill.
Here is the “Code” as defined by the Colorado Ski and Safety Act (and also applies in other states you may be skiing):
Seven Points to Your 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 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.
It is 100% up to skiers and parents of young skiers to know the code and follow it! There are just too many people out there on the mountain these days for anything less.
Ride Another Day campaign (a partnership between the National Ski Areas Association – NSAA – and Kelli and Chauncey Johnson) has also added some tips, as follows, after a collision killed their five year old daughter. For more information about the Johnson Family and the #RideAnotherDay campaign, read this article from the summer 2017 issue of the NSAA Journal.
1. Be Ready
Be ready to slow down or avoid objects or other people at any time. Ski and ride in such a way that you are always able to control yourself regardless of conditions and avoid others and objects you may encounter on the run, groomed or otherwise.
2. Stay Alert
Stay alert to what’s going on around you, especially other skiers and riders. Being aware of those around and changing conditions will help you have a fun and safe day on the hill.
3. Plan Ahead
Ease up at blind spots, check uphill when merging onto trails, and give other skiers plenty of room when passing. Look out for spots on the run where traffic merges or you can’t see what’s coming next. If you are unfamiliar with a run, take it easy the first time down it and make note of places where you’ll want to slow down, such as cat tracks and rollers. Also, give other skiers and riders lots or room, especially if you are passing them. There’s plenty of space out there, so there’s no need to crowd each other.
Follow these steps to keep the slopes safe and fun for all!!! Safety tips aren’t just for kids. Talk to your kids about these rules every time you head out for a day on the mountain. And, if you see dangerous behavior out there on the slopes, speak up. Let ski patrol and the mountain hosts/ambassadors know.
We enjoy what we already know is a risky sport, but we can stay safe, be Snow Happy and have fun by being aware of our surroundings and speaking up. Now, go off and find your Joy of Winter!!!