By Wild Bill Kelso, PSIA Certified Instructor

The Colorado Skier Safety Act is the law and is summarized way below at the bottom.

First the obvious:

  • Ski and board under control; ski within your ability.
  • Ski and board commensurate with conditions …. steepness, traffic, terrain, visibility and snow conditions.
  • Have skis and binding in good working conditions.  Replace old bindings as recommended by the manufacturer.  Bindings have a specific lifetime and expire due to old plastic getting brittle.  Your 8 or 10 year old bindings are probably no longer safe.
  • Look uphill before starting or traversing across a run.  Do not jump out in front of another skier or boarder.
  • Obey slow signs and designated slow skiing areas.

Most ski deaths are caused by inexperienced skiers skiing too fast on beginner or intermediate runs and veering into the trees.  Slow down on beginner runs.

Lifts:  Take your pole straps off your wrists to get on the lift.  Push yourself out with your poles to get up to the loading point and then put your poles together in one hand and look to the other side to get on the chair.  Keep your poles in one hand and hold them up high to get off.  Use the safety bar.  Do not scoot up to get off until you are on firm ground.  Stand up tall and ski away to get off.  Help little kids by pulling them by the hand getting on and off.  Ask the Liftie for help if you need.

Helmets:  Helmets are essential safety gear and have become cool and fashionable in Colorado.  They are considered one time use, so inspect them carefully for cracks or dents if you have an impact.  They have a shelf life due to plastic getting brittle so check the helmet expiration date.

Injury Prevention

Get in shape at home in the pre-season.  You can’t ski yourself into shape in a week.  Stretching is advisable first thing in the morning and warm up on easy runs before hitting the steeps and bumps.

Knee Injuries:  Many or most knee injuries occur when you fall into the back seat and try to recover.  The knee is not designed to lift you from out back and torn meniscus or worse can occur.  If you fallen to the back seat, let yourself down and don’t fight the fall.  It won’t hurt.

Thumbs, wrists and shoulder injuries:  Thumb, wrist and shoulder injuries are the most common injuries for boarders and can occur in skiers as well.  These injuries occur when you brace with an open hand during a fall.  There is much less chance of injury if you make a fist with your hand (not an open hand) and do a shoulder roll (as in gym class…. you remember!).  Skiers should continue to grasp their pole in a fist and not open the hand.  You should roll with the fall… don’t fight it.

Skin and Eye Protection:  Where high SPF suntan lotion and chapstick every day even when it is cloudy.  Goggles with UV protection are essential every gear.

Altitude Sickness:  Stay hydrated well before leaving home.  One aspirin a day helps some people.  The only cure to altitude sickness is to go back to the bottom.

Other Safe Practices:

  • When stopping for a break, stop near the side of the run leaving a lane between you and trees for oncoming yahoos to get by.
  • Don’t stop and stand immediately below a dropoff or road where oncoming traffic cannot see you.  If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.  If someone launches off the road or dropoff, they could hit you.  Leave a space for others if you need to stop on a road.  Do not stop and wait at an exit lane out of the trees.
  • Do not ski directly at your group who have stopped.  Ski towards them off to the side and swing in below the group.
  • Establish your corridor below you when you ski… don’t meander all over the hill.  Bombers come down will respect your corridor when you stake it out but if you meander all over they will buzz you.
  • It’s Colorado law that a person must stop in the event of a collision on the slopes and exchange contact information.  A Hit and Run is a serious offense.

Colorado Skier Safety Act – Know the Code; Seven Points to Your 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.

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