This blog comes to Colorado Ski Country from Amber Johnson, editor of MileHighMamas.
As a mom, I have a lot of discussions with my peers about teaching my kids to ski. My fellow skiers understand the benefits (health, fun, active lifestyle) and even my non-skiing friends don’t question these and instead cite drawback reasons like “it’s too difficult or expensive.”
But never once have I been asked, “Don’t you think it’s too dangerous?”
There has been a lot of press lately questioning the safety of the ski industry. Sure, there are inherent risks with any adventure sport but frankly, the benefits far outweigh them, particularly when resorts go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety of their skiers and snowboarders.
Skier’s Responsibility Code. At every single Colorado Ski Country USA resort, you will find the skier responsibility code. Since my kids were little, they have been properly instructed on this by their ski school.
:: 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.
Safety Zones. Every resort has safety programs in place for ski schools, terrain parks, lifts and terrain access. Many have established Slow Skiing zones and Family Ski zones. Colorado resorts are continually recognized by the industry with safety awards and accolades. Mountain Hosts are in abundance to not only ensure you acquaint yourself with the mountain but keep you safe. There are numerous reminders about proper sunscreen use and hydration, in addition to snow safety and avalanches.
Helmets. When I was learning, no one wore helmets and I’m happy to see that Colorado enjoys the highest rate of ski and snowboard helmet usage (89 percent of all minors wear helmets, according to a national survey by NSAA). Safety Week programs have contributing to this rise in helmet use, Lids on Kids, safety initiatives and, of course, parents. Be an example to your kids by wearing one.
Ski Patrol. Each resort’s Ski Patrollers are the guardian angels of the slopes. Though we are fortunate to have never had a serious accident, it is comforting to know they take extraordinary measures to keep us safe but in the event of an injury, they are there to help. Ski Patrollers are trained in emergency outdoor care and snow safety science for avalanche dangers. Like paramedics, patrollers aren’t doctors and don’t diagnose injuries but provide emergency care and transport. Every ski area has a long-established program of education, orientation, training and refreshers. I have had friends who’ve needed their services and it is inspiring to see them go above-and-beyond to ensure our safety. Even when my daughter dropped her pole off a lift in an out-of-bounds-area, the Ski Patrol was happy to assist her with its retrieval.
Additional Measures. The above measures are in place at all the resorts but most of them take safety in further.
Aspen’s Fifth Grade Skier Education Program involves a classroom visit by members of ski patrol who show safety videos and discuss on-mountain safety with the kids and then the kids spend the day on the mountain with patrol.
Copper. West Village is Copper’s base to the majority of beginner (green) trails. Along with their new lift, they have introduced a new “Lift Safety” initiative directed at all beginner ski and ride guests
Crested Butte. Beyond participating heavily in Safety Week program, their volunteers are trained, repeatedly, in knowing and helping skiers and riders implement the Responsibility Code and Smart Style.
Sunlight: Their 4th Grade Education Program-Sunlight gives a free season pass to area fourth graders and ski patrol offers safety educational programs to help the youngsters learn more.
Telluride: Representatives from the Ski & Snowboard School, Ski Patrol, Lift Operations and Security provide annual student education programs including
Skier Safety Act and “Your Responsibility Code,” boundary markers and signage, lift loading/unloading procedures and more. Additionally, the Telluride Ski Patrol pools community and regional resources to offer bi-monthly seminars to local skiers and boarders.
Winter Park. Their ski patrol tours all the elementary, middle, and high schools in Grand County through the month of December to educate about safety, including avalanche awareness.
Know Your Limits. This one seems like a no-brainer but too often, people don’t trust their gut. Push yourself to try new things but don’t go overboard. I’m not good skiing in the trees so skip the glades (it really is as easy as that). Be smart. Listen to your body. When you’re tired, go into the lodge and grab a hot chocolate. A lot of injuries happen when you’ve overextended yourself and could have been avoided if you just know when to say when.
Even with these great measures in place, will people still get injured? Yep. But they are in the vast minority while the majority enjoys Colorado’s world-class mountain resorts. Be responsible, be safe and have fun!