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Talk to Your Children About Skiing Safety

Trails Merge Durango Mountain Resort

by Kristen Lummis,

One of the surprising things about parenting is how much talking it takes.

Kids need guidance, whether youre talking to toddlers about sharing and nap time, or to teens about sex and alcohol. No parent want to lecture, but each day we seem to do a fair share of it. At every stage of our childrens lives, there are topics that demand discussion.

Skiing safely, and skiing safety, is one of them.

Know the Code

While the skier responsibility code is the obvious place to start (and many resorts do a great job making it really obvious by printing it on everthing), I dont think we ever explicitly discussed it with our children.

We just assumed that they would know the code. But they didnt. And, it wasnt until our oldest son was in an accident at age 11 that we realized he didnt understand basic safety precautions like looking uphill at intersections or slowing to give others the right-of-way. He was a great skier, with excellent skills, but he wasnt a necessarily a safe skier.

From that point forward, we had to hammer home the finer points of skiing etiquette and safety.

Heres What We Learned

Apply the Code: Just reading the code with your kids isnt enough. Explain it, discuss specific situations and how it applies and encourage them to point out the mistakes you, the parents, are making. Once we started doing this, it quickly became apparent that I wasnt very good at looking uphill at intersections either.

Stay Behind: Let your kids lead when you ski. While weve all seen ski instructors leading a long, winding pack of kids down a run, this isnt the best approach for family skiing.

Instead, ask one of your children to be the leader. Give them the responsibility for stopping at intersections where the trail divides and waiting for everyone else.

Explain to them how to safely enter a trail and then let them do it.

If your child is always following you, she never has to be aware of where she is on the mountain or in relation to others. You can keep an eye on the skiing situation from behind and if something troubles you, you can quickly intervene.

Plus, if youre in front and your child falls, you will have to walk back up the mountain to help. If the child is in front and falls in front of you, you just ski down to assist.

Respect Ski Patrol: Signs, ropes and professionals in red and white jackets are good things. Yet, not all kids realize this. Teens, especially, dont always respect authority and can be tempted to ski too fast in slow skiing areas and to duck ropes.

From a young age, help your children understand why they should obey the signs, the ropes and the pros in the jackets. Talk about avalanche control, snow safety and changing weather. These discussions dont have to be in-depth or technical, but make sure your kids understand why the rules exist and why ropes sometimes limit their access to a favorite run.

Model Safe Behavior: Earlier this winter, I talked with Jake Ziemski, a ski patroller at Arapahoe Basin and the CSCUSA Patroller of the year. When I asked him the most important thing guests can do for safety, he immediately said wear a helmet.

Most kids now grow up with a ski or snowboard helmet and dont know the difference. But if the kids see mom or dad shunning the helmet, it makes it harder to enforce this rule as the children grow into adults.

The same is true with wearing sunscreen, skiing with a buddy and taking a break when youre tired.

Explain why even seemingly trivial actions are important. Talk them over with your kids, encourage them to ask questions and dont be afraid to take some criticism yourself, as they point out your inconsistencies and mistakes.

In the end, its not one ski safety lecture, but an ongoing family discussion.

And the best part? Youll all learn a lot and have more fun on each and every ski day.

Good luck and enjoy!

Ski Safety Learning Resources:

Know the Code Video, National Ski Areas Association

Know the Code Videos, Lids on Kids (one short video for each element of the code).

Safely Ski From A to Z, (a hardcover picture book for kids), Mary Stubbs Palmer