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Risks, Rewards and Responsibility: My Three Rs of Skiing Safety

This blog comes to Colorado Ski Country from Kristen Lummis, founder of

In the past, when Ive written about skiing and riding safety, I received some comments that skiing with me might be boring or a bummer.

I beg to differ.


Im a Colorado native who grew up skiing and racing. For 14 years, Ive been skiing with my kids and weve seen our share of tumbles, crashes and close calls. Never once have we thought about hanging up our boards.

What I have thought about (and what I try to teach my kids) is about balancing the risks, enjoying the rewards and acting responsibly while skiing.

From those three Rs come safety.

Balancing Risk

Skiing on a resort is a social sport. Not only are you skiing or riding with your friends or family, but youre also skiing or riding with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people. While youre on the mountain, youre part of a larger community, and communities need rules. Hence the Skier and Rider Responsibility Code. These rules exist, not to ruin your ski day, but to make your ski day safer and more rewarding.

Teaching kids about the Code is easy. Theres this nifty video from the National Ski Areas Association and theres also an excellent picture book for younger kids: Safely Ski From A to Z, by Mary Palmer. Sure, you can just talk about the code or read the signs aloud as you go up the lift, but this book makes it a lot more fun (and also can help alleviate anxiety about putting on the gear or going to lessons — its good stuff)!

A to Z by Mary Palmer

A to Z by Mary Palmer

We have a new driver in our home and as weve taught him to drive, weve been doing our own internal gut check on balancing risk with rewards. Driving is scarier than skiing, but were not going to stop him from driving. Instead, weve tried to teach him to drive defensively. This doesnt mean driving only 39 mph and double braking as he pulls into intersections. No, as weve taught our 16 year-old, defensive driving is smart driving, knowing the rules of the road and paying attention.

It seems to me the parallels with skiing and riding are many.

Enjoying Rewards

We all know the rewards of skiing and riding: the speed, the feeling of flying with your feet on the ground (or sometimes above the ground), the sheer joy in carving perfect turns or leaving a set of tracks in fresh powder. If we didnt love snowsports, we wouldnt do them.

But this is where balance comes in. If youre skiing in a group, can everyone handle the tree shot youre about to take? Are there too many people on this run to carve big GS turns? What are the conditions like? Can you handle them? Not only are these questions weve asked our kids, but weve tried to get them to ask these questions of themselves. This is especially important as theyve grown older and ski independently with their friends

Weve tried to teach them to evaluate the conditions, the crowds, the terrain and their energy. Its a clich, but a clich with validity: the last run of the day is the most dangerous cause youre tired. With kids, its important that they learn to listen to themselves and their friends. If someone is ready to quit, doesnt like the terrain or simply wants to take a break, there should be no shame in bailing.

For theres no reward in pushing it too far and getting hurt.

Acting Responsibly

If youre a parent, you know how hard it can be to teach kids to take responsibility for themselves, for their stuff and for their homework. Alas, these can be hard lessons with lots of tears.

Still, in every aspect of life, accepting and taking responsibility for oneself is of paramount importance and a hallmark of becoming an adult.

Responsibility on the ski slopes should be fairly cut and dried. Follow the Code, listen to Ski Patrol, treat others with respect, and be aware of those around you. Dont push your limits too far and ski or ride within your ability. Make sure your equipment is in good shape, working properly and fits your current size. Keep yourself in good shape and (listen to you mother!) always wear a helmet.

If you can do all of these things, we tell our kids, (and theyre really not that hard), youll enjoy a lifetime of rewarding, exhilarating skiing. Youll also be set with some good lessons for a successful life.

At least thats what I tell myself, as a mom.