Vail, Beaver Creek safety reminders: Slow down, be aware
Vail CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Skiing and snowboarding have relatively low injury and death rates – an average of less than one person per million skier visits is seriously injured each year, and less than one person per million skier visits is killed each year – but mountain safety should never be taken for granted.
Longtime skier Dr. Charlie Tuft died at Vail Mountain Nov. 18 on a beginner run, while 20-year-old snowboarder Evan Massini died the same day on an intermediate run at Breckenridge. Both victims were apparently skilled snow sports riders, and both were wearing helmets.
The news brings the safety issue to light as the 2011-12 ski season gets under way. The deaths are reminders that the sport, while relatively safe, has the potential to be very dangerous when precautions are not taken.
Vail Ski Patrol Director Julie Rust said that it’s the beginning of the season for everybody and people must slow down.
“You’ve got to take good care of yourself,” Rust said. “Look around you – have respect for the space that we have.”
Vail and Beaver Creek are both safety leaders within the ski industry. The National Ski Areas Association awarded Beaver Creek with the 2010 best overall safety award, while Vail won the best ski safety week award for the 2010-11 season. And while the resorts can do everything in their power to promote and encourage safety, skiers and snowboarders have to do their part, too.
Skiers and snowboarders who spend a lot of time on the mountain know what dangers exist out there, and in many cases the solution for better safety can be as simple as just slowing down or paying attention.
Hunter Smith, a snowboarder who lives in East Vail, sees danger on narrow runs, such as cat tracks, when people are taking up more space than they should. He said people shouldn’t take up the whole trail, specifically by making S-turns all the way down it, when there are a lot of people trying to ride down such a small trail.
“If you see someone coming, just go straight,” Smith said. “That would definitely be a big help for everyone.”
Linda Albert, a skier from Denver, feels some skiers and snowboarders go so fast that they’re not in control. She said she sees this happen a lot on the Northwoods run.
“All the hot-shot skiers are going straight down – it’s really dangerous,” Albert said.
Albert added that while sometimes she sees skiers or riders doing this, she feels that 99 percent of the people on the mountain respect one another and play it safe.
April Aultman, a snowboarder who lives in West Vail, said knowing what’s around you is a critical thing to remember when you’re on the mountain.
“I think that’s the most important thing is being aware of your surroundings,” she said. “You have to be very conscious of what’s going on.”
Vail Mountain’s safety team, some of whom are known as the Yellow Jackets, has new safety programs that Yellow Jacket Kate Kinas thinks are helping a lot. She thinks skiers and riders are more aware about their surroundings.
“People are more aware that it’s not a black run, it’s a green and a blue, which means there’s going to be green and blue skiers out there,” Kinas said.
Especially early in the season, when there’s limited terrain open and ability levels are more mixed, people need to remind themselves that others on the same run have varying skills.
For Chris Maurillo, a skier who lives in Vail, a big concern is that people aren’t conscious about where they stop on the mountain. If you need to take a break, he said you have to make sure you do it off to the side of a run. And never sit at the bottom of a hill, he said, where downhill skiers and riders can’t see you.
Bottom line is skiers and snowboarders have to take it upon themselves to know the safety code, which includes staying in control and knowing your surroundings.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.