Mountain Safety Tips You Should Follow
Staying safe while enjoying your favourite winter sport probably isn’t the first thing that crosses your mind when you are heading out to the hill – but it shouldn’t be overlooked. You are going to be outside, exposed to the elements and headed downhill at potentially high speeds!
No need to worry, just make sure you take a few steps to keep you and your crew safe – there are a lot of safety precautions in place at ski resorts and knowing what they are and how to get help if you need it is important.
We’d like to review some of the top safety precautions you should take as well as some information that every skier or snowboarder should know before punching that lift ticket.
Wear a Helmet
Our absolutely #1 safety tip for every skier or snowboarder regardless of age, ability or style: wear a helmet! This doesn’t require much explanation, protecting your brain should be a no-brainer. Over the past decade the use of snow sports helmets has dramatically increased – so we can guarantee you won’t be the only person wearing one.
NOTE: While wearing a helmet can help prevent head injury in lower speed crashes, it can’t necessarily keep you injury free at high speeds. The point is, every skier and snowboarder is responsible for staying within their abilities and making responsible choices on the hill. Your helmet is one of the most important parts of your gear, but it can’t replace common sense.
Before You Leave Home
Some of the simplest safety precautions you can take are also the easiest:
- Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather. Not only does being wet or cold make for a miserable experience, but frostbite can leave lasting damage on your skin and nerves as well. If you aren’t sure about how to best dress for your next winter excursion, check out: What to Wear Skiing & Snowboarding.
- Wear sunscreen! Even when the mercury drops, snow and ice reflect ultra-violet rays. Take care of the skin you’re in – you don’t want to be surprised by a winter sunburn. If you still aren’t convinced, then take a look: Should I Wear Sunscreen in the Winter?
- Stay hydrated! Whether you bring water from home or buy it at the hill, make sure you have something to drink. Skiing and boarding are hard work – don’t underestimate the effort, you may very well find yourself working up a sweat.
Don’t Drink and Drive
If you think we are joking – think again. It seems like an obvious no-go, yet hundreds of minor incidences occur every year when ski resort guests overindulge at mid-station bars or otherwise ski under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are there for the après ski – then cheers to you, and enjoy! But enjoy responsibly.
Pick a Meeting Time and Place
If you are skiing in a group, make sure you have a set place and time to regroup before you head out. Decide in advance where you will meet if you lose someone on the way down. It can happen much faster than you think! This is especially important if you are skiing with kids.
Be Aware of Yourself and Others
There can be a lot of action on those bluebird winter days. People moving with different abilities, in different directions and at different speeds – it seems like a recipe for a collision, right?
Actually things run pretty smoothly as long as everyone is aware of the people around them. If you are faster, give those learning some extra space, always glance uphill before cutting across a run and it you need to stop, make sure you pick a safe spot that is easily visible to oncoming skiers.
Know Your Limits
Today’s resorts offer an incredible range of terrain. From the learning hill to double black diamond runs, from moguls to the half pipe, and from small rails and bumps to big air elements in the terrain park.
Accidents tend to happen when people find themselves pushing the limits beyond their abilities or at the end of the day when people are more fatigued. Check in with yourself – and make sure you feel comfortable and capable at all times. If not – take a break, sit out a run or choose another area to ride.
Safe Places to Learn
Nearly every ski hill has a designated area for learners. Usually it is a short gradual run with a small T-lift or magic carpet to help children and first time skiers get up and down without needing to use the chairlift. If you are learning how to ski yourself, or perhaps teaching a kid how to snowboard or ski then this is definitely the right place to start out.
Ask at the info desk or check out a map of the ski hill if you are not sure how to get the beginners run.
The ski patrol crew at a resort is in charge of everything from helping injured guests, warning reckless skiers and avalanche mitigation. You can see the ski patrol base location on the resort map – we recommend taking a look. We also recommend noting the ski patrol contact number, that way if an accident happens you can call for help right away. The ski patrol crews are usually dressed in bright distinct ski uniforms and can usually be seen patrolling on snowmobiles.
The ski patrol is responsible for marking dangerous areas so be sure to pay attention to the red tape. Areas may be taped off due to deep tree wells, avalanche risk, construction, fallen trees or any number of other reasons.
What if an Accident Happens?
If you are involved in a collision or accident, stay there until the ski patrol can assess the situation and make sure everyone is all right. Should someone be injured, do not remove their skis, snowboard or boots unless absolutely necessary: it is better to stay with the injured person until the ski patrol arrives – they have the equipment and first aid training to handle the situation.
Place your own snowboard or cross your skis in the snow several meters uphill from the injured person to help protect them from oncoming traffic.
While different countries, resorts and clubs have different codes of responsibility for skiers and snowboarders, most of them cover roughly the same main points. You can check out the American National Ski Areas Association Responsibility Code or the Canadian Ski Council Alpine Responsibility Code for a closer look.
A little bit of common sense and an awareness for your surroundings can go a long way. We wish you a safe season!
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