Risks, Rewards and Responsibility: The Three “R’s” of Skiing Safety

trails merge sign durango mountain resortThis post was originally published last season at Club Colorado, the Colorado Ski Country USA blog, as part of a series on skiing and riding safety. 

brave ski mom logoIn the past, when I’ve written about skiing and riding safety, I received some comments that skiing with me might be “boring” or a “bummer.”

I beg to differ.

I’m a Colorado native who grew up skiing and racing. For 14 years, I’ve been skiing with my kids and we’ve seen our share of tumbles, crashes and close calls. Never once have we thought about hanging up our boards.

What I have thought about (and what I try to teach my kids) is about balancing the risks, enjoying the rewards and acting responsibly while skiing.

From those three “R’s” come safety.

Balancing Risk

Skiing on a resort is a social sport. Not only are you skiing or riding with your friends or family, but you’re also skiing or riding with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people. While you’re on the mountain, you’re part of a larger community, and communities need rules. Hence the Skier and Rider Responsibility Code. These rules exist, not to ruin your ski day, but to make your ski day safer and more rewarding.

Teaching kids about the Code is easy. There is a nifty video from the National Ski Areas Association (see above!) and there’s also an excellent picture book for younger kids: Safely Ski From A to Z, by Mary Palmer. Sure, you can just talk about the code or read the signs aloud as you go up the lift, but this book makes it a lot more fun (and can help alleviate anxiety about putting on the gear or going to lessons — it’s good stuff)!

safely ski from a to z cover

Image courtesy Mary Palmer.

We have a young driver in our home and as we’ve taught him to drive, we’ve been doing our own internal gut check on balancing risk with rewards. Driving is scarier than skiing, but we’re not going to stop him from driving. Instead, we’ve tried to teach him to drive defensively. This doesn’t mean driving only 39 mph and double braking as he pulls into intersections. No, as we’ve taught our 17 year-old, defensive driving is smart driving, knowing the rules of the road and paying attention.

It seems to me the parallels with skiing and riding are many.

Enjoying Rewards

We all know the rewards of skiing and riding: the speed, the feeling of flying with your feet on the ground (or sometimes above the ground), the sheer joy in carving perfect turns or leaving a set of tracks in fresh powder. If we didn’t love snowsports, we wouldn’t do them.

skiing happy steamboat

Skiing and riding make us happy.

But this is where balance comes in. If you’re skiing in a group, can everyone handle the tree shot you’re about to take? Are there too many people on this run to carve big GS turns? What are the conditions like? Can you handle them? Not only are these questions we’ve asked our kids, but we’ve tried to get them to ask these questions of themselves. This is especially important as they’ve grown older and ski independently with their friends

We’ve tried to teach them to evaluate the conditions, the crowds, the terrain and their energy. It’s a cliché, but a cliché with validity: the last run of the day is the most dangerous ‘cause you’re tired. With kids, it’s important that they learn to listen to themselves and their friends. If someone is ready to quit, doesn’t like the terrain or simply wants to take a break, there should be no shame in bailing.

For there’s no reward in pushing it too far and getting hurt.

Acting Responsibly

If you’re a parent, you know how hard it can be to teach kids to take responsibility for themselves, for their stuff and for their homework. Alas, these can be hard lessons with lots of tears.

Still, in every aspect of life, accepting and taking responsibility for oneself is of paramount importance and a hallmark of becoming an adult.

national ski areas association know the code

Image courtesy National Ski Areas Association.

Responsibility on the ski slopes should be cut and dried. Know the Code, listen to Ski Patrol, treat others with respect, and be aware of those around you. Don’t push your limits too far and ski or ride within your ability. Make sure your equipment is in good shape, working properly and fits your current size. Keep yourself in good shape and (listen to you mother!) always wear a helmet.

If you can do all of these things, we tell our kids, (and they’re really not that hard), you’ll enjoy a lifetime of rewarding, exhilarating skiing. You’ll also be set with some good lessons for a successful life.

At least that’s what I tell myself, as a mom.

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  1. says

    Good post, this a theme I hit often. I urge my readers to push their limits with a firm steady push and not a sudden punch. IN order to improve we all have to push those limits but if the push is not too hard the risk of injury to yourself or other is minimized.

    Last year on my first trip I found myself at the top of a run I was not willing to take on, I ended sideslipping half way down it and then I let go, no regrets on that. Keeping ourselves in shape makes a huge difference, at the end of my days last year I felt near as fresh as I did when I arrived, the workout regimen I embarked on made a huge difference.

    I remember talking to one fellow who lived in CO for a while and he gave me a hard time because I was not going to go charging down 2x blacks, I just shrugged it off, I know my ability and I know I wan to get to that point, if I charge too hard who knows, maybe it will lead to never skiing again.

    • says

      Good common sense reminders Mark! Thanks so much. It is always best to stay within the zone where you feel comfortable and not punch it because someone else wants you too! Cheers!