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Remembering your responsibility on the mountain

Shauna Farnell

Nothing shakes up your holiday weekend of skiing like watching your mother narrowly avoid a collision on the slopes.There we were, me and my family, making our way down Copper Mountain on Saturday, when a woman on a snowboard came zigzagging from uphill and right over my mom’s skis. My mom, a seasoned skier, is not shy about telling people when they’ve done wrong. This woman clearly felt she was not the one in error and screamed back at my mom as I attempted to add my two cents to the back of her head as she recklessly scraped her way out of earshot.”The downhill skier has the right of way,” I called after her.As this week is one of the busiest of the season, I think it apt to recount some of the essential precautions for skiers and riders.Granted, anyone who is not accustomed to being on the mountain multiple days every week could easily make any one of the mistakes admonished by the Skier Responsibility Code, which can be found in just about every trail map at every ski area in Colorado.

Thus, here we are: Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objectsAsk any emergency doctor in the High Country what happens to your internal organs when you’re skiing or snowboarding and you hit a tree or any other stationary object going 20 mph. Just imagine what would happen to your car. None of us ski or ride with metal body armor. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.Sometimes, the uphill skier gets indignant about this if you steal his or her line while the both of you are heading down the hill. The woman on Saturday may have felt this way. Remember that the skier ahead of you, like you, is looking DOWN the mountain and does not have eyes in the back of his or her head. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail or where you are not visible from above

It’s a good idea to look uphill when you stop for a break to make sure you’re not standing under a roller or a blind spot. On busy days, ski areas sometimes put up those yellow fences you have to slow down and maneuver through, (which I personally feel always cause more accidents than they prevent). Stopping or standing in the narrow opening between these fences is obviously asking for trouble. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to othersAs the leader of our grand traverse from one side of the mountain to the other on Saturday, these were my words of caution to my family every time we crossed a trail. How many times do skiers and riders bite it on the hill and then pop back up, shake off and continue across the hill without a single glance as if the mountain was all theirs? Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipmentI’ve noticed a few newer snowboard bindings don’t come with leashes. If you don’t want to be that snowboarder whose board is spotted from the chairlift breaking trail at 45 mph before either severing somebody’s feet at the ankles or lodging itself out of sight in a tree well for the rest of the season, get a leash. Same goes for leashless tele skis. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.



The chances of surviving an avalanche are zero to very slim. When a sign says a lift or a trail is “closed,” it’s not just trying to scare you. You don’t walk into stores that say “closed,” right? Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.On more than one occasion, I’ve ridden the lift up with skiers and riders who have never had boards strapped to their feet who have felt the first order of business in getting started is flopping themselves onto the chair lift. WRONG. Take a lesson. Also, after boarding a chairlift, always ask or warn others on the lift about putting the bar down before doing so. A friend of mine was almost knocked off the lift a few years ago when a guy yanked the bar down without warning as she was sitting right under it. Not everyone has the custom of using the bar, so ask.Other words of advice including skiing within your ability. If you only ski a couple of times a year, don’t launch down a double black on your first run. And when your legs feel tired, call it a day. Most torn ACLs and other ski-related injuries occur later in the day and are due to weariness.So, have a great holiday week out there, but for your own good, not to mention common courtesy, please remember that there are LOTS of people out there trying to have fun. Be respectful and safe.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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