Skiing and snowboarding can be among the most exhilarating sports in the world. But those of us who love the sports know there are dangers, and we must do whatever we can to protect ourselves. Some recent deaths of skiers this season, plus the dramatic loss of 7 snowboarders and skiers in a British Columbia backcountry avalanche, reinforce the dangers. But there are simple rules everyone can follow.
First of all, snowsports in any area where there is clear avalanche danger is courting disaster. If the risk is worth it to you, take as many precautions as possible. Yet, the 3 Canadians and 4 Americans who died were about the best equipped, and most experienced sportsmen you could find. The dead included worldclass snowboarder Craig Kelly, who devoted his life to the sport. An avalanche is difficult to survive. One member of the 21-strong group, who did survive, said it was like swimming down the wildest river you could imagine.
The dangers abound on even the tame, beginner slopes. Most skiers believe there are more severe injuries and deaths among beginners than among the more experienced skiers. The rules to follow involve helmets and control! Always wear a ski helmet. Rent if you can’t buy one. Some ski resorts are now insisting that all children under 18 wear a helmet.
Even if you are in control, the other skiers may not be. If you fall, especially under a jump area, get out of the way as fast as you can! Not all sportspeople realize the danger they are in, when they can be crashed into from above.
Some dramatic jumps in the MidAtlantic states are at Whitetail, in Pennsylvania. We asked Whitetail’s Marketing Manager Chris Black how his area keeps skiers safe. He said Whitetail employees and volunteer ski hosts patrol the areas constantly, especially around the jumps. If a skier is especially reckless, his ski pass is taken away, and he is supposed to be prevented from skiing for the rest of the day.
Other common sense suggestions involve wrist and knee protection - especially for snowboarders. And, always dress for the cold! Frigid temperatures and frost bite pose a genuine danger.
Remember - drive carefully when you go to and out of the ski areas. Exhaustion and bad weather conditions are also hazardous - don’t be afraid to sleep, if you are too tired to drive, or ice and snow are competing with safety.
So, in short, take the precautions, but have a blast. For me, the occasional dangers are worth it. Especially now, during one of the most fantastic ski seasons we have had in ages!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.