The old saying “Safety First” is especially important when it comes to snowsports. Skiyente Ski Club is advocating safe practices on the slopes and recommends wearing a helmet while skiing and snowboarding. At the same time, we all must realize that helmets have their limitations and are not the end all for safety.
In addition to the proper use of helmets, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has developed Your Responsiblity Code to help snowsports enthusiasts avoid injury and make their experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.
NSAA has also prepared a helmet safety fact sheet for your convenience, and compiled additional ski and snowboard safety statistics available in the pressroom at NSAA.
Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed in many ways. At areas, you may see people using alpine skis, snowboards, telemark skis, cross country skis, and other specialized equipment, such as that used by the disabled. 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 and riders the responsibility for a great skiing experience.
Know the code. It's your responsibility.
Note* This is a partial list. Be safety conscious.
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.
Take a lesson. Like anything, you'll improve the most when your receive some guidance. The best way to become a good skier or snowboarder is to take a lesson from a qualified instructor.
Drink plenty of water. Be careful not to become dehydrated.
Curb alcohol consumption. Skiing and snowboarding do not mix well with alcohol or drugs.
Dress in layers. Layering allows you to accommodate your body's constantly changing temperature. For example, dress in polypropylene underware (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, as 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.
When buying skiwear, look for fabrics that are 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 products.
Know your limits. Learn to ski and snowboard smoothly and in control. Stop before you become fatigued and, most of all, have fun!
Take a moment to view the NSAA's PSA on Loading & Unloading
Take a moment to view the NSP's PSA on Protection
Take a moment to view the NSP's PSA on Modern Gear
Equipment (excluding board, boots, skis, and poles)
Ski or Snowboard lock
Bag to carry clothing, boots and extra equipment
Ski pants or bibs (No jeans!)
Outer layer jacket (waterproof/breathable shell)
Gloves or mittens
Sweater or fleece
Socks or sock liners (one thin to medium pair)
Vest (for insulation)
Warm-ups for after skiing or riding
Hat or headband
With the growing free skiing/riding movement, more and more skiers and snowboarders head out of ski area boundaries every winter in search of untracked powder and adventure. In the backcountry however, pristine slopes, solitude, and unparalleled natural beauty are inexorably linked with inherent risks. This terrain is neither patrolled nor controlled, creating its paradoxical allure. Out there, the snow conditions are vastly different from those found within the more predictable confines of a ski area; out there, avalanches accommodate no one.
A humbling reminder of nature's power, avalanches can easily obliterate anything unfortunate enough to be in their path: people, trees, cars, and even buildings. While the techniques for predicting and avoiding avalanches are generally reliable, anyone who ventures into the snowy backcountry will never be completely safe from the threat of an avalanche. That's why it is so important to be well-versed in avalanche safety and search and rescue techniques.
The goal of all avalanche safety instruction is to help skiers and snowboarders make smart decisions in the backcountry so they can minimize their chances of having to deal with an avalanche and know what to do in the event one occurs. Armed with avalanche knowledge and safety awareness, skiers and snowboarders are better prepared to balance an acceptable level of risk with the chance to experience the euphoric beauty of the backcountry. Here are some essential safety principles to keep in mind.
Take an avalanche safety course or clinic. These educational opportunities provide invaluable hands-on experience in personal safety and rescue techniques. (The National Ski Patrol offers excellent Basic Avalanche and Advanced Avalanche Courses for a minimal fee.)
Read up on avalanches. Supplement what you’ve learned in the courses by devouring as much additional information as you can. It’s important to maintain a healthy respect for these deadly forces of nature, no matter how experienced you are at backcountry skiing or snowboarding.
Learn to recognize avalanche terrain. Most avalanches travel in paths, on smooth exposed slopes of between 25 and 60 degrees, but there are many exceptions. To make an informed assessment of avalanche danger, it’s essential to understand the significance of various terrain features, including slope angles, rocks, cornices and other wind-snow formations, ledges, and vegetation. This takes experience, preferably in the company of a guide or instructor.
Practice searching for your companions' avalanche transceivers. Rehearse this until everyone you’ll be traveling with feels confident about his or her ability to locate each beacon as quickly as possible. It takes only one incident to realize the importance of this level of preparation.
Do your homework. Research your route and snow conditions in the exact location(s) you plan to ski. Call your local avalanche warning center and check the current and forecasted weather before heading into the backcountry. Be prepared to adjust plans and/or routes accordingly.
Remember and anticipate the "Human Factor"; that is, the fact that people may exhibit undesirable behavior in stressful situations. Your attitude and the attitude of your companions can often mean the difference between a safe trip and catastrophe. Make sure you travel with people who have similar goals and attitudes.
Always carry avalanche equipment, including avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels (in addition to basic camping gear, extra clothing, high-energy food, and plenty of water). Every member of the group needs to carry all three of these avalanche rescue items, and know how to use them.
Be aware of your surroundings. Stay alert, and constantly be on the lookout for information about the environment that indicates the potential for a slide. This includes recent avalanche activity and changes in terrain, snowpack, and the weather.
Analyze the snowpack stability. As with studying terrain features, reading the snowpack takes years of experience. There are however, several tests that reveal the layers in the snow and can help you assess risks involved with unstable snow. These include ski-pole tests, snowpit tests, resistance tests, and "shear" tests. In the National Ski Patrol’s avalanche courses, students learn how to conduct these tests and have the opportunity to see the snowpack firsthand.
Cross potential avalanche slopes one at a time. If you doubt a slope's stability but still intend to cross it, only expose one person at a time to the potential for danger. When climbing or traversing, each person should be at least 100 yards from the next person. Travelers should climb steep narrow chutes one at a time, and when descending the slope, ski it alone. This not only minimizes the number of people who might get caught (and maximizes the number of people available for rescue), but it also reduces the stress put on the snowpack.
Have the courage to know when you shouldn't go. In the words of Chuck Tolton, ski patrol director at Copper Mountain, Colo., "No turns are worth putting friends and family through the ordeal of your death."
Don't overlook clues. Evidence of potential avalanche hazards will be there, so pay attention. If you educate yourself and communicate with your companions, you should have the tools needed to make smart decisions in the backcountry.
Try to avoid traveling in the backcountry alone. Also, never leave the group. Otherwise, if you run into trouble, you'll be on your own.
Don't assume avalanches occur only in obvious large paths. While most slides travel on broad, steep, and smooth slopes, they can also wind down gullies or through forested areas. Remember, if you can ski or snowboard through it, an avalanche can slide through it.
Never travel in the backcountry on the day after a big storm. Allow the snowpack to settle for at least 24 hours.
Don't assume a slope is safe because there are tracks going across it. Wind, sun, and temperature changes are constantly altering snowpack stability. What was safe yesterday (or this morning) could slide this afternoon. Further, when you cross a slope, you apply stress to the snowpack, which can cause it to slide.
Don't allow your judgment to be clouded by the desire to ride the steepest pitch or get the freshest snow. Staying alive is much more important.
Don't hesitate to voice concerns or fears. As Chuck Tolton said, "No one is going to criticize you for wanting to be safe in the backcountry."
Don't consider yourself an avalanche expert just because you've taken a lot of courses and traveled extensively in the backcountry. "What you don't know can and will kill you," Tolton says. "If you work or play in the backcountry, you have to gain an understanding and knowledge of the ever-changing and dangerous environment." Avalanche expert Knox Williams agrees, adding that although he's been studying avalanches for 27 years he still learns something new every winter. "Learning about avalanches is a lifelong endeavor," he says. "A 'know-it-all' arrogance can kill you."
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Common Sense, it is one of the most important things to keep in mind and practice when on the slopes.
SKIYENTE SKI CLUB
5319 SW Westgate Drive #139
Portland, OR 97221