Being safe and smart on the slopes

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It’s National Safety Awareness Week (from Saturday to Jan. 26), a time when ski resorts remind us that skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous if we don’t follow the rules and play safe.

Whether it’s skiing too fast and out of control or heading into the woods out of the ski area’s boundaries, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

You can also can get injured. A National Ski Areas Association study on injuries and … deaths … on the slopes finds that men are mostly likely to be on that list. It also says the risk of getting hurt or dying on the slopes is relatively small when you consider the millions of skiers and snowboarding days each season.

Next week ski areas will be reinforcing the importance of staying safe and using common sense. To see what Vermont areas are planning next week, click here.

This a good time to review some basic safety things that same prevent you from getting hurt … or injuring someone else.

Here’s the skier/snowboarder responsibility code:

Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.

People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.

You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.

Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.

Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.

Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.

Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

Then, there are some other tips that will not only make your day on the mountain safer, but more enjoyable.

WEAR A HELMET

Sure helmets would help you much if you’re speeding down a mountain and crash into a tree. But they can prevent minor concussions or protect your head when bringing down the chairlift safety bar.

Here’s a sweet offer from Killington in Vermont. Guests who purchase a helmet at any Killington Sports location or through the Killington E-Store during the week of January 19-27, 2013 will receive a voucher for a free lift ticket, valid any day starting January 28, 2013 through the end of the 2012-13 season. It’s a great deal since an adult lift ticket goes for 80 bucks and you can buy a helmet for that same price. Check out the head buckets at Killington’s e-store here.

GOOD EQUIPMENT

Instead of borrowing some old ski or snowboard equipment from a buddy, rent some instead. The gear is not only safe and up-to-date, but you  replace it if your boots are hurting you and the boards aren’t right.

SUN SCREEN AND LIP BALM

Often overlooked. many skiers and snowboarders only think about sunscreen in the spring. The danger of UV rays is higher at ski resorts because they are reflected off the snow. According to the Center for Disease Control, the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Put on sunscreen before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UV radiation exposure increases 4 to 5 percent with every 1,000 feet above sea level. New England’s mountain peaking over 4,000 feet.

Lips can get chapped and cracked when exposed to the elements without protection. Ideally, a lip balm will have a sunblock as well.

LOWER THE SAFETY BAR

Yes, there are some skiers and snowboarders who are more leary of heights. If that’s you the safest place on the chairlift is on the sides; if you get a little nervous you can grab either the side bar or the back of the seat. Don’t look below to determine the distance between you and the ground. Look to the side of the lift at the passing trees. Raise the safety bar once you’re over a safety net on high-elevation lifts.

Jim Shay

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