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Downhill From Here

Downhill From Here: It’s safety awareness week on the slopes

  • The new Schneider Triple at Cramore disappears into the fog. It was so foggy on top, almost nobody discovered that the bottom of the east face was clear. (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    The new Schneider Triple at Cramore disappears into the fog. It was so foggy on top, almost nobody discovered that the bottom of the east face was clear. (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • On Saturday, January 12, the top of Cranmore was in the clouds, but the visibility got better as you skied down the mountain.  (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    On Saturday, January 12, the top of Cranmore was in the clouds, but the visibility got better as you skied down the mountain. (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • On Saturday, January 12, the top of Cranmore was in the clouds, but the visibility got better as you skied down the mountain.  (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    On Saturday, January 12, the top of Cranmore was in the clouds, but the visibility got better as you skied down the mountain. (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • The new Schneider Triple at Cramore disappears into the fog. It was so foggy on top, almost nobody discovered that the bottom of the east face was clear. (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • On Saturday, January 12, the top of Cranmore was in the clouds, but the visibility got better as you skied down the mountain.  (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • On Saturday, January 12, the top of Cranmore was in the clouds, but the visibility got better as you skied down the mountain.  (David Shedd/EasternSlopes.com photo)

Did you ski this past weekend? If you did, at some point in your day you probably found yourself picking your way down a slope through thick fog. The clouds were hanging tough and low over much of the northeast. We’ve seen a lot of that this season, more than anyone really expecte… or wanted. Most of us would much prefer to have our vision limited by lots of falling snow, not fog when we ski.

Skiing in fog can be fun sometimes. Almost mystical. You float along silently in a world of white on white with the ghostly shapes of trees and lift towers and other skiers materializing and de-materializing around you. But you have to take it slow because you can’t really see where you are going all that well. And you keep your fingers crossed that the other folks on the slopes with you are taking it slow, too. Skiing is a sport of controlled risks and one of the risks you can’t control on the slopes is the behavior of others.

Given all this, it seems appropriate that Jan. 19-27, 2013 is National Safety Week (nsaa.org/safety-programs/national-safety-week) sponsored by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Especially right after a foggy weekend, this is a good chance for all of us to remind each other that skiing safely is everyone’s responsibility.

The NSAA has developed and actively promotes the idea of individual responsibility on the slopes with its Your Responsibility Code (check out nsaa.org/safety-programs/responsiblity-code for a five-minute video that would be great for parents to share with children – and children to share with parents).

Your Responsibility Code:

1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.

2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.

3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.

4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.

5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.

6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.

7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

Chances are you’ve seen the signs outlining this seven-point behavior code as you bought your lift ticket, waited in a lift line or rode up a chairlift. It’s been around so long, it’s become part of the wallpaper at ski resorts – but it shouldn’t be.

There’s a lot of season ahead (and more cold and snow in the forecast as I write this) and plenty of chances to get out on the slopes and have a wonderful day (or night). Just keep your wits about you when you slide. There’s snow on the slopes. What are you waiting for?

Wear a helmet

I’m seeing what I consider to be a disturbing trend on the slopes these days: more and more skiers and riders wearing hats instead of helmets. In part, I blame ski media, which regularly shows images and videos of smiling people skiing or snowboarding without helmets on. As far as I’m concerned, that’s simply irresponsible.

Skiing and snowboarding, like biking and whitewater kayaking are helmet sports, period, end of discussion. There are too many hard objects around, including your own and other people’s skis and poles, trees, snowmaking equipment and rocks, and at high speed it’s too easy to connect with them to go unprotected. No, a helmet won’t always save your noggin, but a seatbelt doesn’t always save your life in a car accident, either. Like a seatbelt, a helmet just dramatically increases the odds you’ll survive if something goes wrong. The real trick is to always wear a helmet, then ski or ride as if you aren’t.

There’s a wonderful organization called Lids On Kids (lidsonkids.org), which has a number of Public Service Announcements on it site advocating helmet use, including the trailer for “Moving Forward” a full-length movie documenting snowboarder Danny Kass’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury suffered in a snowboarding accident in 2011. You can see the whole movie at http://snowboarding.transworld.net/1000170887/videos/moving-forward-full-movie/

Be smart, keep a lid on it.

HERE’S THE DEAL

Killington Resort (800-621-6867, killington.com) in Vermont really deserves some props for its full-on participation in the effort to get helmets on everyone. If you buy a new helmet in any Killington Sports location from Jan. 19-27 you receive a voucher for a one-day lift ticket valid any day of the 2013 winter season starting Jan. 28.

Whether you look at it as getting a cheap helmet or a free lift ticket, it’s a great deal.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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