Letter: Suggested enhancements to National Safety Month at Vail Mountain
January 25, 2018
Editor's note: This is part of a series regarding safety as a subset of something larger that could be called WeCare, by Paul Rondeau.
At Vail Mountain and every ski area across the country, there are various emphasis programs as part of January's National Safety Month. The key focus is always the time-tested Skier and Rider Responsibility Code — normally highlighting eight points and usually stated as "Know the Code." More recently, the use of helmets has been added — noting it's the snowboarders who started the trend.
The subheading of all this is avoidance of and fear of injury. So lets peel the onion of the notion and word "safety":
• Causes of injury: Most of the Responsibility Code and wearing helmets is all about collisions — with others and other objects, including hard snow. Yet if you observe the injuries coming into the typical emergency room, it's mostly non-collision, self-inflicted injuries to one's limbs and internals. Hence …
• General skiing and snowboarding skills: Improving the technical skills associated with skiing and riding should get more emphasis during Safety Month. This includes such things as how to fall to minimize potential serious injury. Clearly an opportunity to highlight taking a formal lesson with a great ski and snowboard school, coupled with any safety month "freebee" skill-improvement offerings. Examples include off-mountain "chalk talk" clinics, quick tips by a pro in a fenced off area and more.
• Behavior-enhancement skills: Yes, skills are also required to master the tactics encompassed in the Responsibility Code and other guidances. They don't "take" simply by having acronyms, mottos, classes, etc. by themselves.
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• Repetition required: In short, all the lessons and all the safety one-liners in the world won't do much unless you practice and repeat it in some way, dozens, if not hundreds of times — until you "own" the skill. Hence, emphasis such as "You must consciously practice the skill of looking first before starting downhill, or you will forget" needs to be part of any safety/skill program.
In summary, safety is related to skills and visa-versa. Or, putting it another way, it's easier to sell and get folks' attention with "skills," rather than the boring "safety."