January is National Safety Month which makes this a great time to review some guidelines for staying safe while on the mountain. Here are eight common sense tips that can potentially save your life, or at the very least, keep you out of the ER.
Always ski or board in control
Regardless of the terrain, it’s critical to your safety (and the safety of others) that you ski in control. Be a defensive skier or rider. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and anticipate how the skiers and boarders around you will be moving on and throughout the mountain. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, just take it slow and focus on your technique.
Downhill skiers and boarders always have the right-of-way
The downhill skier ahead of you always has the right of way. Keep your eyes open and alert when heading down the slopes. It’s important that you can see all skiers and boarders around you.
Use the proper equipment for your activity
Having the right equipment is essential to your safety. Make sure the equipment you use is appropriate for your skill level.
- Helmet: Always wear a helmet. The mountain can be unpredictable place and your brain is the most important object to protect. It’s crucial that you wear a helmet to protect you from potential accidents. A helmet reduces the likelihood of a serious head injury by up to 50%. Wear a helmet the entire time you’re on the snow.
- Clothing: It’s best to wear layers so you can put on or take off clothing as needed. Make sure to have what you need before you head to the slopes. A general rule of thumb is to wear at least three layers of clothing. Good-fitting clothing helps you stay safe. Boots that are too large means lack of control; a helmet that doesn’t get strapped under the chin can easily slip off in a crash. If you’re renting, the professionals at the store can ensure that everything fits properly.
- Goggles: More than UV protection, goggles also protect your eyes from impact injuries. Goggles should fit snug around your head and not move when you do. Goggles should also adjust as needed and provide comfort for the entire day on the mountain.
Stay on the runs appropriate for your skill level
Make sure you choose trails that are suited to your skill level. Don’t attempt something that’s exceeds your skill and/or experience levels. Over time you’re skills will improve and you’ll be able to attempt more challenges. Be patient. There’s no need to rush into a dangerous activity that you’re not ready for. If you find yourself on terrain that makes you uncomfortable, just take it slow and focus on your technique.
Set a meeting place in the morning
Skiing in a group is a very effective way to stay increase the safety quotient in the mountain. But because people ski at different paces or want to ski different terrain, it’s easy to get separated from your group. Before you set out on the mountain set a mid-day and end of meeting. That way you can make sure everyone’s safe and accounted for.
Be aware of where you’re stopping. If you’re still on a ski slope, gather together off to the side of the run and take up as little space as possible. Others may not be aware you are stopping.
Or you may even want to choose a “buddy” while you ski and snowboard. With a buddy, you and your “buddy” can watch out for each other and find help in case one gets injured, they’ll notice and be able to find help.
Observe all posted signs and warnings
Mountain operations teams work hard to ensure that you’re skiing on the safest terrain and under the safest conditions possible. They place signs, ropes and warnings for a good reason. Obey all posted signage and closures. It could save you from serious injury or even worse.
Be prepared if you go out of bound
If you are headed to the backcountry, remember avalanches, wild animals, extreme weather conditions and unfamiliar terrain all present threats. Know where you’re going then tell someone where and how long you’ll be gone. In the backcountry, it’s even more critical that you stay alert for signs of danger.
Stay hydrated, eat often and watch for fatigue
When you’re skiing and boarding, you’re burning a lot of calories and need extra food and water. Caloric and water intake should be increased accordingly. This is a basic tip for any prolonged activity. Plus, you’re simply not as sharp – physically and mentally – when you’re fatigued. Watch for signs of fatigue and when they become apparent, call it quits.
Your safety and the safety of your loved should always be your top priority on the mountain. Have fun but never compromise your safety or the safety of others.