Skiing and Snowboarding Safety Tips

Fresh snow in the mountains, fun on the slopes and feeling the powder beneath your skis. This weekend begins National Ski safety week Jan 14-21, 2012. Hitting the slopes or headed to the mountains and enjoy the snow sounds great as the 2012 winter sports season gets into full swing. It is wonderful as long as we can enjoy it safely.

STATISTICS ON SKIING/SNOWBOARDING

Fatalities – According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA): During the past 10 years, about 40.6 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average. During the 2010/2011 season, 35 fatalities occurred out of the 59.8 million skier/snowboarder days reported for the season. Twenty-two of the fatalities were skiers (12 male, 10 female) and 13 of the fatalities were snowboarders, (11 male, 2 female). Among the fatalities, 19 of those involved were reported as wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. The rate of fatality converts to .64 per million skier/snowboarder visits.

Serious Injuries – Serious injuries (paralysis, serious head, and other serious injuries) occur at the rate of about 43 per year, according to the NSAA. In the 2010/11 season, there were 39 serious injuries. Sixteen of these serious injuries were skiers (11 male, 5 female) and 23 were snowboarders, (16 male, 7 female). Among the serious injuries, 18 of those involved were reported as wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. The rate of serious injury in 2010/2011 was .65 per million skier/snowboarder visits.

Below skiing/snowboarding fatalities per million are presented based on “visits,” referred to as days of participation, and by participants. NOTE: The following is based on the most recently available data.

Skiing/snowboarding
2010/2011 number of fatalities* 35
2010 number of ski/snowboard participants (in millions)** 10.0
Fatalities per million participants 3.8
Days of participation (in millions)* 59.8
Fatalities per days of participation rate (per million) .64

NOTE: A skier/snowboarder visit represents one person visiting a ski area for all or any part of a day or night and includes full-day, half-day, night, complimentary, adult, child, season and any other ticket types that gives one the use of an area’s facility.

Here are a few helpful tips to make your next trip to the slopes a safer skiing or snowboarding adventure:

Tips for Prior to Hitting the Slopes

  • Get in shape. Don’t try to ski yourself into shape. You’ll enjoy skiing more if you’re physically fit.
  • Obtain proper equipment. Be sure to have your ski or snowboard bindings adjusted correctly at a local ski shop. You can rent good ski or snowboarding equipment at resorts.

  • When buying skiwear, look for fabric that is water and wind-resistant. Look for wind flaps to shield zippers, snug cuffs at wrists and ankles, collars that can be snuggled up to the chin and drawstrings that can be adjusted for comfort and keep wind out. Be sure to buy quality clothing and products.
  • Dress in layers. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. For example, dress in polypropylene underwear (top and bottoms), which feels good next to the skin, dries quickly, absorbs sweat and keeps you warm. Wear a turtleneck, sweater and jacket.
  • Be prepared. Mother Nature has a mind of her own. Bring a headband or hat with you to the slopes, 60 percent of heat-loss is through the head. Wear gloves or mittens (mittens are usually better for those susceptible to cold hands).
  • Wear sun protection. The sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, even on cloudy days!
  • Always wear eye protection. Have sunglasses and goggles with you. Skiing and snowboarding are a lot more fun when you can see.

Tips for while on the Slopes

  • Take a lesson. Like anything, you’ll improve the most when you receive some guidance. The best way to become a good skier or snowboarder is to take a lesson from a qualified instructor.
  • The key to successful skiing/snowboarding is control. To have it, you must be aware of your technique, the terrain and the skiers/snowboarders around you. Be aware of the snow conditions and how they can change. As conditions turn firm, the skiing gets hard and fast. Begin a run slowly.
  • Skiing and snowboarding require a mental and physical presence.
  • If you find yourself on a slope that exceeds your ability level, always leave your skis/snowboard on and side step down the slope.
  • The all-important warm-up run prepares you mentally and physically for the day ahead.
  • Drink plenty of water. Be careful not to become dehydrated. Even at 8,000′ or above base elevation, the climate is extremely dry, so it is easy to dehydrate. Staying hydrated (which includes consuming less alcohol than at sea level) also helps you avoid altitude sickness
  • Curb alcohol consumption. Skiing and snowboarding do not mix well with alcohol or drugs.
  • Know your limits. Learn to ski and snowboard smoothly—and in control. Stop before you become fatigued and, most of all have fun.
  • If you’re tired, stop skiing. In this day and age of multi-passenger gondolas and high-speed chairlifts, you can get a lot more time on the slopes compared to the days of the past when guests were limited to fixed grip chairlifts.
  • Never Ski or snowboard alone.
  • Know the signs and obey the warnings

  • If you are involved in or witness a collision or accident you must remain at the scene and identify yourself to the Ski Patrol.
  • When using Ski lifts, learn how to get on and off safely.  Never push to get on.  Consider asking the attendant to reduce the speed of the lift if getting on and off with little children.  Always lower the bar on chair lifts.
  • Avoid scarves, loose clothing and tie up long hair that can get caught in ski lifts.
  • Follow the “Your Responsibility Code,” the seven safety rules of the slopes: (See the code at the end of the alert)

Respect your limits.

Do not ski trails that are above your skill level. Trails will be clearly marked (Green Circle, Blue Square, and Black Diamond)as to what level skier they are appropriate for. On a similar note, stay in control of your skis and focus on the trail you are skiing. Accidents happen more readily when we are distracted. This is what the symbols look like and mean:

 the easiest trails at a particular resort  
trails that are more difficult
 Trails that are the most difficult

If you are on rustic trails, the signs may look like this:

As you progress, you will find it very helpful to have five or six levels instead of just three. Telluride, Colorado, for instance, uses single and double markings to show six degrees of difficulty, like this:

 

easiest

 

easy

 

more difficult

 

still more difficult

 

most difficult

 

extremely difficult

Lastly, you will start to see a new trail designation on maps and signs, an orange oval. This marking will be used for snowboarding half pipes and snowboard freestyle terrain parks. It looks like this:

 

freestyle terrain park

Tree Well and Deep Snow Safety

  • Skiing and snowboarding off the groomed runs and in deep powder is one of the most exciting and appealing parts of the sport. However, if you decide to leave the groomed trails you are voluntarily accepting the risk of a deep snow immersion accident. A deep snow or tree well immersion accident occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized and suffocates. Deaths resulting from these kinds of accidents are referred to as a NARSID or Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death.
  • The good news is that NARSID risk, can be managed successfully. The website www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com is intended to assist all skiers and riders in learning about the risks and prevention of deep snow immersion accidents.

Lids on Kids

  • With the increasing popularity of helmets during the past few years many parents are considering a helmet for their child. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), together with the help of many others in the ski industry, has developed this site to help educate parents about putting helmets on their children while they’re on the slopes.
  • NSAA, the trade association for ski areas across the country, recommends that parents, skiers and snowboarders make the right choice about wearing a helmet. It’s up to you to educate yourself about their benefits and limitations. Ultimately, the choice of whether to wear a helmet is one of personal or parental choice.
  • Visit www.lidsonkids.org

Finally, The Safety Tips You Should NEVER DO. . .

  • ski on a slope that exceeds your level of skill and experience
  • drop things from the chair-lift on to the skiers below
  • stop to pose for photographs in the middle of a ski run
  • carry your skis in a dangerous manner whereby you could injure others
  • try to adjust your boot straps while in a crowded cable car
  • disobey the safety notice for the drag and chair lifts
  • make fun of foreign skiers, hoping that they will not understand you
  • ski when feeling tired or after drinking too much alcohol
  • block or wait for friends at the exit of a drag or chair lift
  • push in front of others to join your friends on the chair lift
  • swing your ski poles in a dangerous manner while skiing
  • disobey warnings or signs on the mountain

Get to know the Skier Safety Act: Skiing Responsibility Code

Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed in many ways. At ski areas you may see people using alpine, snowboard, telemark, cross country and other specialized ski equipment, such as that used by disabled or other skiers. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy the slopes, always show courtesy to others and be aware that there are elements of risk in skiing that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Observe the code listed below and share with other skiers the responsibility for a great skiing experience.

  1. Always stay in control.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way.
  3. Stop in a safe place for you and others.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.
  5. Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
  7. Know how to use the lifts safely.

Be safety conscious and
KNOW THE CODE. IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

Information provided by National Ski Assoc. of America, Snow link, National Safety Council, treewelldeepsnowsafety.com and Lidsonkids.Org

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Ken Oswald
Safety and Security Manager for Plateau

koswald@plateautel.com