Parenting takes a lot of talking.
Whether you’re talking to toddlers about sharing, or to teens about sex and alcohol, raising kids sometimes feels like one long discussion. No parent want to lecture, but at every stage of our children’s lives, there are topics that demand discussion.
Skiing safely is one of them.
The Code: Know It
The obvious place to start a discussion about skiing safety is with the skier and snowboarder responsibility code. Since most resorts do a great job sharing this information in really obvious places (like on chairlift poles), we just assumed our boys knew the code.
But they didn’t. And, it wasn’t until our oldest son was in an accident at age 11 that we realized he didn’t understand basic safety precautions like looking uphill at intersections or slowing to give others the right-of-way.
Our son was a strong skier, with excellent skills, but he wasn’t a necessarily a safe skier.
From that point forward, despite groans and moans from the boys, we hammered home the finer points of skiing etiquette and safety.
Teach Your Kids to Ski Safely in Four Easy Steps
Live the Code: It’s not enough to just read the code. Explain it, discuss specific situations and how the Code applies and encourage your kids to point out your mistakes. Once we started doing this, it was quickly clear that I didn’t always look uphill at intersections either.
Here are three resources to start your discussion.
First, this video from the National Ski Areas Association, provides basic information for all ages.
For younger kids, check out these 30 second videos from the Lids on Kids website. Each one highlights a different element of the Code.
Finally, a hardcover picture book, Safely Ski From A to Z, by Mary Stubbs Palmer, offers a fun introduction to the code, ski school, equipment and more.
Fall Behind: Let your kids lead when you ski. While we’ve all seen ski instructors skiing at the head of a long, line of kids, this isn’t the best approach for family skiing.
Instead, ask one of your children to be the leader. Give them responsibility for stopping at intersections where the trail divides and waiting for everyone else.
Explain to them how to safely enter a trail and then let them do it.
If your child always follows you, she never has to be aware of her place on the mountain or the position of other skiers. Keep an eye on the skiing situation from behind and if something bothers you, you can quickly intervene.
Plus, if your child is in front and falls down, you just ski down to assist. No more hiking back up the mountain.
Ski Patrol, A Good Thing: Signs, ropes and men and women in red and white jackets are good things. Yet, many kids realize don’t this. Teens, especially, often don’t respect authority and are tempted to ski too fast in slow skiing areas and to duck ropes.
Help your children understand why they should obey signs, ropes and the pros in the jackets. Talk about changing weather, avalanche control and snow safety. These discussions don’t have to be in-depth or technical, but make sure your kids understand why the rules exist and why ropes, signs and Patrol sometimes limit their access to a favorite run.
Do As You Want Them To Do: Last year, I talked with Jake Ziemski, a ski patroller at Arapahoe Basin and the CSCUSA Patroller of the year. When I asked him the most important safety step families can take, he said “wear a helmet.”
Most kids grow up with helmets and don’t know the difference. But if kids see mom or dad shunning the helmet, it makes it harder to enforce this rule as the children grow into adults.
The same is true with wearing sunscreen, skiing with a friend and resting when you’re tired.
Explain why these actions are important.
Talk them over with your kids, encourage them to ask questions and don’t be afraid to take some criticism yourself, as they point out your inconsistencies and mistakes.
In the end, it’s not one ski safety lecture, but an ongoing family discussion.
And the best part? You’ll all learn a lot and have more fun on each and every ski day.
More on Skiing Safety:
- Risks, Rewards and Responsibility: The Three “R’s” of Skiing Safety, December 12, 2013.
- How A Ski Accident Changed Our Lives, January 21, 2013.
- Ski Safety: What’s A Wide Berth? August 6, 2012.
- Decision Points, May 8, 2012.
- Ski Porn that Just Might Save Some Lives, October 28, 2013.
- Ski Safety: Know the Code from A to Z, November 28, 2011.
- Turning Kids Loose: When, Where and How, January 4, 2013.
- iPods While Skiing: Yes or No? April 14, 2011.
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