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blog: Skiing safe in the early season

Andrew Erler
Vail CO, Colorado

Vail’s open, the snow is falling, and the lifts are running. Whether here for life or just a few short days, we all wake up early, in order to catch that first chair up and hopefully find some un-tracked powder, an un-tracked groomer, or a line of perfect bumps.

We race around the mountain, skiing whatever we feel like when the mood strikes. Sadly, however, we do not have as much snow as we will in a month, so we need to be extra careful while skiing in order to not get hurt, and perhaps have our season ruined before it even gets going. So, here are my tips to stay safe in the early season both here on Vail Mountain and at other ski hills, near and far.

Stay under control. This is something which we should always do, but especially now in the early season. With less snow on the hill, many of the runs fluctuate more than they will in a month. A dip here, a bump there, and if we are out of control we could be the proud masters of a yard sale of epic proportions.



Also, many of us have not been on skis for the entire summer, and as a result our muscles are a bit weak, our reflexes a bit slow, so we need to take extra caution in what we attempt and the speeds at which we do it.

Stay out of the trees. Tree-skiing is a blast, something I love to do. But early season tree-skiing can be especially dangerous, because there is not enough snow to fully cover stumps, rocks, fallen logs and other hazards.



Right now, the risk of suffering an injury is not worth the reward of skiing in the trees. One of my roommates (Matt Harahush) was skiing right inside the tree line of Simba last week when his skies caught a fallen log and ejected him into a tree stump. The result was a couple bruised ribs and a no-go for skiing for a couple weeks. Matt would just like to say, “Stay out of the trees for another couple weeks and ski smart, and hopefully you won’ get hurt as well.”

Be careful where you jump. Who doesn’t love flying through the air after hitting a sweet roller, or jumping of a cliff and experiencing free fall for 15 feet?



Those are great things, which we can do safely … but only after practicing quite often.

However, the early season is not the time for those actions, as we do not have enough snow to be sure of a good, solid landing. On many runs on Vail right now, there are air pockets beneath the snow. If skiers jump in the wrong spot they can break through the upper level and find ourselves stuck, or worse.

If you do plan on jumping this time of year, be sure to scout out your approach and landing zone beforehand, from all angles, in order to make it as safe as possible.

Hit the breaks early and stop below your friends. Many skiers get injured because they wait too long to slow down or try to spray their friends with snow as they stop. When entering a congested area, merging with another trail, or stopping on a trail, generally slow down before making the stop or merging. By doing this we can better control our stop. This also helps us in case we cannot stop. Crashes at lower speeds are generally less painful and dangerous.

Also, when stopping near some friends you should always ski or board around them and then stop below them. By doing this we can make sure that we do not hit any of our friends, as well as giving us plenty of room to stop should an unexpected problem develop.

So go out there are and have a blast, but remember to be safe.

Andrew can be contacted at andrew.erler@gmail.com.


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