Tuesday, February 16, 2010

16,284 Vertical Feet - Skier Safety - Mardi Gras and the Bra Tree

Skiing is a sport. It's supposed to be fun. But, it's also a dangerous sport. A skier can injure themselves, or others on the mountain. There are all kinds of obstacles when skiing; trees, rocks, sticky snow, chair lift posts, other skiers... the list goes on. Here are a few tips to help you be a safer skier or snowboarder.

1. Read the Skier Responsibility Code. At any mountain resort, if a ski patroller witnesses a skier or rider violating the code, that person will lose lift privileges. No questions asked.

2. Wear a helmet. It's just the smart thing to do. I do not care if it's not fashionable. There are so many brands and styles for helmets that anyone can find a helmet to suit his or her style.

3. Stay withing boundaries posted by ski patrol. Boundaries are often marked off with ropes or poles. They're made pretty obvious so you can't miss them. Ski patrol blocks off unsafe terrain because of avalanche susceptibility, lack of snow cover, or any reason they deem unsafe. Respect the ski patrol and do not ski out of bounds.

4. Know how to contact ski patrol when on the mountain. At Park City, ski patrol is contacted by going to one of their bases directly (usually located near lifts) or through a lift attendant or other mountain employee. At the end of the day, ski patrol sweeps the mountain searching for anyone who is stuck on the mountain for whatever reason. If you are able, and no one can help you, simply dial 911 from your cell phone (because I know you're all skiing with you cell phones). Be aware of where you are skiing to best inform 911 operators if you should need to contact them, which I hope you don't.

5. Take a lesson. Ski instructors are trained to teach not only skiing skills, but mountain safety. They teach necessary skills such as how to get on and off a chair lift (not as easy as it looks) and how to control your equipment.

6. Finally, one of my BIGGEST pet peeves... Do NOT wear headphones blaring music while skiing or riding! Yeah, it's cool to hear your favorite tunes while cruising down an awesome groomer. But, it's not safe. Seriously, it's not. Shocking, considering you can now buy a helmet that has built in earphones, or ski jackets that have places for your headphones to feed through. Tsk tsk ski gear manufacturers. If you're listening to music, you can't hear when a fast skier is coming up behind you, which means you might go into their path and have a collision. Not cool. Save the music for on the lift or while waiting for the shuttle.

Remember, just because you consider yourself a good skier does not mean you are invincible. People of all ages and abilities can get hurt on the mountain. My mom, while she was a ski instructor in Aspen, dislocated her shoulder. Why? She was skiing while tired, lost control, and fell. She's since gotten a pin in her shoulder. I know a snowboarder who fell in a terrain park and cut a HUGE gash in his leg that should have gotten stitches. He didn't get them, tsk tsk. He simply put a band-aid on it and kept riding (typical snowboarder). When I was younger and in ski school, I was flying down the NASTAR race (hoping for a gold) and I fell and hurt my knee. I got taken to ski patrol headquarters in a toboggan. My mom found out by seeing her name on the information board at the ski lift! I'm sure she proceeded to freak out. My brother, saw the whole thing happen from a chair lift he was on.

What has prompted this entry about safely, you are probably wondering. Well, two things happened today that were examples of NOT skiing safely.

1. Mom and I were skiing a gorgeous black diamond run called Crescent. Mom always skis ahead of me so I can follow her on black diamonds because then I can help her up if she falls. My mom, an extremely safe skier, was skiing to the side as she usually does so she can only get passed on one side because she is aware that she is slower than many skiers. It is always good to be aware of your ability. I was above her and on the opposite side of the run when I heard the sound of a fast skier coming down. I don't have eyes in the back of my head, so I couldn't see the skier, and I stopped. I looked at my mom, who apparently also heard him and slowed down as well. The skier passed my mom on the inside going WAY too fast. Now remember, Mom is skiing on the side so passing on her inside is like passing on the side of the road with the solid white line while driving. NOT SAFE. He missed pummelling her by a foot, maybe. If my mom had been wearing headphones, she wouldn't have heard the skier and would not have slowed down, and he surely would have hit her, or to avoid hitting her would have gone completely off the trail into the trees.

I saw the whole thing happen, and was completely appalled. This guy, who probably thought he was being super macho by skiing super fast down a black diamond, almost crashed into my little mom. He didn't stop to apologize, he just kept going at the same speed. If he were skiing safely, he would have realized there was a skier in front of him and moved to a different part of the run, or he would have simply slowed down. Because he did neither of these, I doubt if he even was a "good" skier. He was probably out of control and violating the Skier Responsibility Code. All I have to say is, "What a schmuck!"

2. Mom and I were riding up the Pioneer lift, under which is a double fall line run filled with moguls and trees. The bottom part is really nice, but to get to it is a total nightmare. One of my goals is to get to the bottom half of Pioneer run by way of Blue Slip Bowl (not the area under the lift), so named because it's a HUGEly steep run. As we're approaching the top of the lift my mom points up and says, "Look, there's skiers coming down the run." We like to watch skiers do the crazy things we won't do. It's good lift entertainment. As we got closer, we realized the skiers were two very small children (about 6 and 8 from what we judged) with their dad.

The children were sitting down trying to untangle their skis, sliding down the mountain, and very very unhappy. We could hear them whimpering from up in the lift! This dad was obviously irresponsible and unsafe. You can't enter this run without seeing how advanced it is. Mom and I, feeling bad for these children all the way at the top of this advanced run went to the ski patrollers at the top of he lift (they have a base there) and told them about the kids and their dad, because we were worried about them getting down without getting hurt. The ski patrollers had just come off the lift themselves and had seen it all. Do you know what they said to us? "They're fine, they'll make it down." Which is probably true, BUT these kids were not happy, and they will probably never want to go skiing again, which is a shame because skiing is so much fun.

As a former lifeguard, I was completely shocked by the response of these two ski patrollers. The main job of a lifeguard is to PREVENT accidents before they happen. I would think the same would hold true for a ski patroller. I often see them waving down fast skiers who are approaching "slow zones". I thought the ski patrollers would at least go down to where they were skiing and stay with them while they got to the bottom of the run, just to make sure nothing happened to them. Because, honestly, I haven't seen a single person going down that run any time I ride Pioneer lift. This means that dad was going to have a hard time getting someone to go to ski patrol for him if one of his kids got hurt.

On a lighter note, today is Fat Tuesday which literally translates into Mardi Gras! In honor of Mardi Gras, ski areas often go all out and celebrate with beads and mini parades. I remember when I was younger I always wanted the most and the biggest beads. I kept them for a long time hanging on the side of my bed. But, the best way to use Mardi Gras beads in a ski area, is to throw them on a tree! This tree is also often the "bra tree". I've been looking for a good one hear in Utah that can compare to the awesome ones I've seen in Vail and Aspen Highlands. I haven't found one that's quite as good, but this one is the closest I could find. I've been eyeing it for weeks, seeing if it will "grow" and today, it looked better than ever with all it's new Mardi Gras beads! I couldn't resist sharing with you.

Because we got to a late start today (noon!) and we were not used to Park City after being in Deer Valley for three days, we didn't ski that much and spent a lot of time on lifts or looking for where we were going. We skied only 16,284 vertical feet. After two over 20,000 vertical feet days, I'm OK with that.

Tomorrow is our "scheduled" day off. Mom and I are going to explore Redstone with our shopping cart, Albert. Until then...

For more information about ski safety visit the National Ski Patrol website at: http://www.nsp.org


  1. Tamara, great posts! I've been deficient in responding to these but just wanted to tell you I admire your knack for writing in a way that lays out your views very clearly...you should become a ski patrol administrator or manager...impressive notes on the safety stuff. And right on about the kids who will probably not be enthusiastic about skiing in the future with super dad. I'm headed to the east coast this week but will be back this weekend to read more about your adventures. Love this blog!

  2. I love this post! I can't imagine skiing with headphones. One of my FAVORITE parts about skiing is the noise; or rather, the lack of noise. How quiet it can get when the mountain isn't too crowded, when people aren't being obnoxious, when all you can hear is the sound of skis cutting snow and an occasional "on your right!"

    Ugh about that dad bringing his kids down that trail! Some of my friends pulled that on my during my second season of skiing. I had only ever skied green circles and blue squares and they knew this. I told them to warn me if they were going to try anything else. They didn't. We were at Okemo in VT and they took me to a side of the mountain where the only way down was down a double black diamond trail full of moguls, really narrow. I lost count of how many times I fell and I was just miserable and embarrassed.

  3. Thanks Elise! I'm so gald you're liking it.

    I love the sound of skis in the snow too! I don't like the sound of scraping snowboards though...