Considering how crowded the slopes are this time of year, it might be wise to review what is deemed safe and what is considered dangerous behavior.
Some of the finer points of safety may appear hazy to frequent skiers, snowboarders and weekend warriors, who all could probably use a little stroll down memory lane. And newcomers should definitely pay attention. Typically, you are the worst offenders, usually through pure ignorance, either getting victimized or putting someone else in danger with a reckless movement.
This isn’t new stuff. Ever heard of the Responsibility Code? Every resort, big or small, follows the same seven laws, which are typically found in the trail map and posted in numerous locations around the mountain.
So take a minute and learn them. Just like a driver must understand the rules of the road, any skier or rider must familiarize themselves with the Responsibility Code.
1. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above. Translation? Get the heck out of the way. There is nothing wrong with stopping. However, do it on the side of the hill.
Sorry if this offends snowboarders, but they are the biggest violators. How many times have you seen one or more riders sitting down in the middle of a run? Hello, anyone home? It’s the equivalent of a driver changing a tire in the middle of the freeway.
2. Always stay in control, be able to stop or avoid other people or objects: This one also gets frequently abused, although it is less defined simply because everyone has their own comfort zone.
Expert skiers may be traveling at great speeds, yet typically possess control. Someone of lesser skills might be going that same speed, yet their behavior is deemed reckless because they don’t have same ability to stop and avoid trouble.
Even the expert should be more aware of the surroundings. The general rule is ski no faster than the traffic around you. Show some patience on the beginner runs, this is where many of the accidents occur. Don’t be a jerk and ski in and out of beginners, who are sometimes just frightened getting down the hill.
At some resorts, there is a price to pay for recklessness. Speeding isn’t tolerated in certain areas at Sierra-At-Tahoe. To encourage on-mountain safety, this new program designates entire runs as go slow areas. Radar guns are used to reel in speedy skiers and riders.
3. People ahead of you have the right of way, so avoid them: This is just common sense. Until rear-view mirrors are attached to every ski cap, most people don’t know what is behind them.
A warning like (On your left) wouldn’t hurt. In general, don’t ski up people’s back. No one likes a tailgater.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others. Again, pretty basic stuff. Would you merge on a freeway without looking, just assuming that nearest lane is for you? The same common-sense rule applies for the slopes. Take a look uphill and wait if needed. Usually that only requires five or 10 seconds.
5. Observe all posted signs and warnings, which means keep off closed trails and areas. There is a common denominator for lost people. Typically they failed to abide the signs, heading into closed areas, usually alone.
Don’t be foolish, stay on the marked runs and ski with someone if possible. Wandering into a closed spot might result in expulsion from the resort.
6. Before using any lift, you must have the ability and knowledge to load, ride and get off safely: Anyone who has taken a lesson is taught the technique of riding a lift. If you don’t know, find out. The ski patrol would be an appropriate place to seek help.
7. Always use devices to prevent runaway equipment: Take proper care to avoid any equipment coming off and heading into other people on the slopes. Use the poles properly, the straps are there for a reason.
Jeffrey Weidel is a Sacramento-area free-lance writer with over 25 years of skiing experience