How to stay safe on slopes |

How to stay safe on slopes

Dr. Drew Werner

EAGLE COUNTY – With ski season in full swing it is time to begin chanting the mantra. What mantra do you say? It is no secret, although perhaps you cannot even recite it. No cheating and scanning down the page! To best refresh ourselves, I turned to one of our local gurus, I mean instructors. Taylor Ogilve is the children’s snowboard program coordinator at Beaver Creek. He is passionate about his work and his teaching. His deep voice grabs and keeps your attention. When we spoke about mountain safety, whether skiing or riding, I thought he might say what I presumed were the basics. Dress warmly, wear a helmet, drink plenty of water etc. Instead he spoke these simple words: “Know the code, follow the code.” Here it is. I hope we can all learn it and follow it well.Skier and Snowboarder Responsibility Code:1) Always ski or ride in control.2) Yield to incoming skiers or riders.3) Stop where you are visible.4) Avoid skiers or riders below you.5) Always wear retention devices.6) Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.7) Prior to riding a lift, make sure you can load, ride and unload safely.The code is actually Colorado law. It is simple and straightforward. As Taylor reminds us, if we all follow it, we’ll all have a great day on the mountain. Everything else comes next.After you have memorized the code, it is time to get ready. One of the easiest things to overlook is conditioning. Skiing and snowboarding challenge and stress us in ways our bodies are not used to. Although the time is here, it is never too late to work on conditioning, strengthening and improving flexibility. As with any exertional activity, drink plenty of fluids. Stop and rest when you need to. It will make your next run more enjoyable and safer! For our out of state visitors, friends and guests remind them to avoid exertion for the first 24 hours up at altitude. Drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeine for the first day or two is also excellent advice.When coming up on crossings, look for the “slow” signs. Please heed them. You cannot always see over the next hill, and an uphill skier or rider has the responsibility to know what is in their path. Other basics:– Wear a helmet that fits properly. Any of our ski shops or instructors can help you find the right one or check your fit. If you’re riding, wrist guards will ensure that a fracture doesn’t end your season early. Snowboarding is the No. 1 cause of winter wrist fractures. Layer your clothes for warmth and don’t wear cotton, which loses its warmth when wet. If you’re cold, stop to warm up. You will enjoy the day more and be less likely to become injured. Skiers should have their bindings checked out by a qualified person every season; riders should tighten their bolts. A good tune and periodic base grinds will keep your equipment at its best. Alcohol, drugs and skiing or riding don’t mix. Wear sun block even on cloudy days and reapply every two to three hours. Don’t go into backcountry without training and proper equipment beacon, avalanche probe, and shovel. The beauty of the backcountry may mask real dangers to the unaware and unprepared. If you need help, look for ski patrol, an instructor or find a mountain phone (look for red signs, they are all over). In Vail dial 1111, in Beaver Creek dial 5111.Have a great day on the mountain!Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado

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