Slopeside safety starts with code |

Slopeside safety starts with code

Dr. Drew Werner

Snowflakes are dotting my window, Diana is measuring the snow on her deck and the chain law signs on Vail Pass are flashing. Yes! Winter is coming and our mountains are ready to open! This week I wanted to talk about how to have a safe and healthy day on the mountain. Unexpectedly however, my thoughts were about to take a different turn.

“May the force be with you.” Those words flashed through my head as I discussed this week’s column with Taylor Ogilve, one of our excellent local snowboard instructors. For those of you who don’t know Taylor, he is a snowboard instructor at Beaver Creek who 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.” He was referring, of course. to the Skiers and Snowboarders Responsibility Code. It was Taylor, not Obi-wan Kenobi that gave me my mantra that I hope you’ll chant with me.

Here it is, I hope we can all learn it and follow it well:

Skiers and Snowboarders 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.

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.

Please keep your questions coming in. The only bad question is the unanswered one.

Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.

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.

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