January 15th through the 23rd brings together resort employees across North America to help involve their coworkers and guests in slope safety. During the National Safety Awareness Week, resort employees touch on accident prevention and what to do in case of emergencies on the slopes.
Throughout the last couple years, it has become a growing trend to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding. Most ski schools now actually require children under 12 to wear them, as well as the instructors. This sudden increase in helmets is partly because of the increase in media attention to fatalities on the mountain. But also, it just makes sense. Snow sports, like most other sports, come with risks. Protecting your head can cut those risks in half. With tree collisions up there as one of the top accidents on the mountains, helmets can help dramatically reduce the risk of serious head injury and death.
Whether you find yourself on the mountain a couple times a year or a couple times a week, it’s always beneficial to keep safety fresh in your mind. Besides wearing a helmet, safety also includes skiing defensively and being aware of your own ability. Always stay in control of yourself and never assume other skiers are as knowledgeable as you are. Be cautious of knolls and corners where your sight is restricted. High-speed impact between skiers can be deadly as well, and is simple to prevent. If you are going to be skiing at high speeds, do it on open terrain where you can easily see what’s ahead of you.
For those of you who dabble in the backcountry, your risks grow a bit, but the rewards can be worth it if you keep your body and mind sharp and responsive. Be weary of tree wells and hidden obstacles. Especially at the beginning of the season when snow coverage is minimal, creeks and logs can become death traps. So know where you are and where you want to go. To prevent tree well incidents, use the buddy system. Once you encounter a tree well head first, the likely hood of you escaping unharmed drops immensely. If someone is with you, those first couple seconds are priceless and can save your life.
Keep yourself informed. Know the conditions of which you ski and if avalanches are a risk, be prepared and have the proper equipment with you. Take an avalanche awareness class or flip through a couple courses online to inform yourself in basic avalanche survival. Be aware of the temperature as well. Dress appropriately to avoid frostbite and be aware of what your body is telling you.
Most importantly, have fun out there. Once you cover your bases with safety, you will have the peace of mind that will allow you to enjoy every minute on the mountain without worry. Take the time this week to ensure that you and those you love are fully aware of the risks and are able to react in emergencies. Look out for yourself and others and the remainder of the season will be epic! Safe skiing out there and have fun! For more information on slope safety, check out the following websites: www.lidsonkids.org; www.freestyleterrain.org; www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com; www.fsavalanche.com.