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Ride Another Day: Skier Safety #RIDEANOTHERDAY

When skiing or riding at Colorado ski areas you may have noticed this extraordinarily powerful poster:


This great safety program is the result of a partnership between the NSAA™, National Ski Area Association and the Johnson Family. The Johnson’s daughter, Elise, was killed in a horrific high speed collision on Christmas Eve. Kelli Johnson, Elise’s mom, sustained a C1 fracture which resulted in partial paralysis and a coma. The snowboarder that recklessly crashed into the mother and daughter was killed. Out of the fathomless grief over the loss of their child, the Johnsons took action in an effort to make the sport they love safer. 

Like many skiers and riders on the mountain I remember when I first saw the above poster. The message is so powerful and simple. This great program is the result.

Three Actions Every Skier and Rider Can Take

These three actions complement The Code. These commonsense actions contain the essentials that responsible skiers and riders should do. Fundamentally it is a plea for people to pay attention to their surroundings and think. Don’t ski or ride on autopilot. 

1. Be Ready

Be ready to slow down and avoid objects or other people at any time. Ski and ride in such a way that you are always able to control yourself regardless of conditions and avoid others and objects you may encounter on the run, groomed or otherwise.

Too many people ski and ride around the mountain at speeds that aren’t safe for the particular slope or conditions they might encounter. For example, at Vail I have frequently seen people riding Ramshorn at Super G speeds. This is a big, wide, groomed run off the top of Mid-Vail. It’s fun to ski it fast. However, as a blue slope it is frequently crowded with novice riders. There are frequent collisions on this slope and near the bottom one usually finds the yellow jacket people cautioning people to slow down. Regardless of your abilities, should a downhill rider suddenly cut across your line and you not be able to avoid them you are going to be responsible for the collision. Using other people on the slopes as a human racecourse is irresponsible and can result in horrible injuries or death. 

2. Stay Alert

Stay alert to what’s going on around you, especially other skiers and riders. Being aware of those around and changing conditions will help you have a fun and safe day on the hill. 

Should a downhill skier make a sudden and unexpected direction change you must be able to avoid a collision. If you hit an icy patch you must maintain sufficient distance and appropriate speeds so you can avoid crashing into someone. 

Always look uphill before starting from a stop or cutting across the slope. You may be putting yourself at risk of getting hit from an uphill skier or rider. Situation awareness can prevent a lot of the collisions that occur. 

3. Plan Ahead

Ease up at blind spots, check uphill when merging onto trails, and give other skiers plenty of room when passing. Look out for spots on the run where traffic merges or you can’t see what’s coming next. If you are unfamiliar with a run, take it easy the first time down it and make note of places where you’ll want to slow down, such as cat tracks and rollers. Also, give other skiers and riders lots or room, especially if you are passing them. There’s plenty of space out there, so there’s no need to crowd each other.

By doing these three things every run, you’ll be helping keep the slopes safe and enjoyable, for you and everyone else.

Merge areas are particularly prone to collisions. With helmets and goggles on peripheral vision is already limited. Keep your head on a swivel. Look around and look up behind you. 

Fatalities such as Elise Johnson are mercifully rare. Unfortunately, collisions do occur and life altering injuries sometimes result. Collisions and crashes in high traffic areas like Schoolmarm at Keystone Ski Resort, Ramshorn or Vail Trail at Vail Resort, and Pioneer at Breckenridge can be avoided if everyone on the slopes would take the above three actions. 

If you or your loved one’s have been injured or killed as a result of a skier or rider collision in Colorado give me a call (303) 300-5060 or email me Helping injured skiers is what I do.  

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