Get Out! A few rules to follow to stay safe on the slopes

Julie Norman stands in the middle of the Bear Claw run at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. When stopping to take a break, she recommends making sure to be in a spot where you’re visible, and wear a helmet.

January 19–27 was National Ski and Snowboard Safety week.

Different resorts across the country acknowledge the week with various events and information for guests. Powderhorn Mountain Resort had “know the code” pamphlets available at their guest-services desk, and a statement on Powderhorn’s website said, “Supporting and encouraging safety across the resort will help us enhance the mountain experience for our guest.”

Still, safety on the mountain, in my opinion, comes down to each individual and those who teach individuals. Here are my own top five safety rules for skiing (or snowboarding) at resorts:

1. Wear a helmet

When I first started skiing, my parents agreed to buy me a season pass as a Christmas gift on one condition: I get and wear a helmet. I kept up my end of the bargain and haven’t been sorry.

No, I don’t ski with the thought, “I’m going to fall” running through my head, but if I do fall, I like to have my helmet between me and any hidden rocks or logs. My helmet not only protects my head if I crash, it’s also quite warm. On cold windy days I am grateful for the extra weather protection a helmet provides.

Some ski and safety experts believe helmets make people take bigger risks because they feel safer. For me, that hasn’t been an issue. I think you’re a risk taker or you’re not. I don’t believe wearing a helmet suddenly makes someone think, “I can go huck myself off a boulder!”

Even if it does make you a little riskier, wearing a helmet on ski slopes is a good idea.

2. Be aware

I do not trust others to be aware of me on the slopes. Certainly, other skiers should be aware of who’s in front of them or beside them, but it seems that isn’t always the case. So, I try to always be aware.

I listen for skiers coming up behind me, I look up the slope at intersections, and I pay close attention to what’s happening in front of me. On intermediate runs or cat tracks it is especially important to watch those in front of you. Beginning skiers will sometimes make wide turns, and if you aren’t careful you’ll end up right in their path.

Sometimes skiers and snowboarders like to take off from jumps on the sides of runs, and they sometimes don’t notice anyone coming down the slope behind them. It’s best to do your best to be aware.

3. Know your limits

There’s nothing wrong with telling your friends or ski partner, “I don’t want to ski Mad Dog Glade. I’ll ski Snowcloud and wait for you at the glade’s exit.”

If you don’t think you’re ready for a giant mogul run or a tree run, then don’t ski it. At some point, you’ll feel like you have enough control and experience to jump into those runs, but until then, ski what you’re comfortable with.

Take small steps to increase your ability level, like skiing Red Eye and then practicing the bumps at the end of Hooker, or skiing a short bump run, like Equalizer, with an experienced friend.

The bottom line is you know what you’re capable of skiing better than anyone else.

4. Stop where you can see
and be seen

Last year while riding the lift we saw a skier stop halfway down a steep slope. A snowboarder came racing over the edge of the slope and slammed right into the skier, knocking them both down. The snowboarder couldn’t see the skier from the top of the slope, and by the time he cruised over the edge, it was too late to stop.

Make sure that if you stop to rest, you stop in a place where you’re clearly visible to other skiers and boarders coming down the slope. Watch for people coming down the hill, too, in case you need to ski out of the way in a hurry. If you’re on a glade run, make sure you don’t stop on the downside of an evergreen tree because no one above will be able to see you. They might come zipping around the tree and crash right into you.

5. Be courteous

This isn’t so much a safety issue as it is just general good skiing and boarding karma. If you’re skiing with a group of people, make sure to move out of the way of the lift once you get off. Try not to stand in the way of others getting off the lift when discussing which run to ski.

Similarly, if you and your friends have all stopped to rest together, make sure you’re off to the side of the ski run and not spread out across it. Plenty of other people will be skiing that same run, so leave room.

If you are skiing down a run and see that someone is stopped, try to give them some space. Just because you can ski or board within six inches of someone doesn’t mean you should. You never know when you might catch an edge and crash. Don’t endanger others unnecessarily.

Of course skiing and boarding are all about having fun and enjoying winter. For us, especially, getting up to ski resorts means escaping the winter inversion that seems to last for weeks on end. Still, if you’re going to ski or board, it’s best to be safe and take precautions to prevent injury to yourself and others.


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