IT BEGINS WITH SAFETY ON THE SLOPES

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Story by Joe Stevens

Hello everyone –

First off, this week may I just say Happy New Year to all the readers of Snow News Is Good News. I really appreciate everyone that comes along for the 1000 word ride every week. Here is wishing that 2023 is a special year for you and you are able to enjoy some time at your favorite ski resort this year.

Actually it was January 1, 1985 that I hit the slopes (in more than one way, ouch) for the first time. My first day included a one on one lesson from a young ski instructor at Massanutten Ski Resort in Virginia.

Before I even stepped into my brand new bindings, the instructor gave me a short, but to the point safety talk, about some of the ins and outs of staying safe while on the slopes.

Click to Enlarge as needed.

That brings us to the topic of this week’s column, safety on the slopes, as January is National Safety Month. The awareness campaign is something that the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) backs 100 percent and so does every ski resort.

The national membership has put together the following information at DiscoverSnow.org, NSAA’s public-facing website designed to help introduce people to snow sports, which features safety tips and resources for skiers and riders.

There is something new this year from NSAA that directly relates to safety on slopes. You see for the first time in over two-decades, the industry’s safety commandments called Your Responsibility Code has been updated.

There is a darn good chance that you have seen the code posted throughout your favorite resort or even on the trail map you use to maneuver around the ski area. Hopefully you have a taken a couple of minutes to familiarize yourself with the code. I know that ski and snowboard instructors still use it as one of their important safety guides for first time skiers and snowboarders.

To get some insight on why the code was updated, I reached out to Dave Byrd, Director of Risk and Regulatory Affairs, who was instrumental in the code’s update.

First up though, I asked Dave the softball question, why is important to have a month dedicated to safety awareness. “It is a critical issue for our industry and our sport season long, but many, many years ago, we did select January as a specific safety month to draw eyes to the issue from both the ski area’s and the guest’s side. We wanted to pick a busy month, to have people at resorts focused on the issue and make sure in was out front in the guests’ eyes.”

As all of you already know, the sport is an activity that can lead to injuries, pretty much like any outdoor sport. But as Byrd is clear about, the risk factor goes up some playing on snow, “You put skis or snowboards on people and put them on snow, point them downhill, there are all sorts of risks involved in that activity. The more we educate the public, I think the better we do as a whole for the sport and for the industry.”

Now time to circle back around to Your Responsibility Code, which I mentioned earlier has been updated this year for the first time in some time.

As being one of the new code’s authors, Byrd said a lot of work went into the update, “We had not updated the responsibility code, which we call Your Responsibility Code, because it is everyone’s responsibility to be safe, since 1994. Since then, a new generation of skiers and snowboarders have come into the sport. We wanted to make some changes to update the existing language to make it, we feel, clearer to today’s guests.”

A couple of the updated provisions, include language pertaining to having drugs or alcohol that is brought in on their own, such as in back packs. So, one of the code’s directives reminds guests they should not be impaired while using lifts or on the slopes skiing and snowboarding.

Another update pertains to on-slope collisions and reckless skiing and snowboarding. It is now recommended that if someone is involved in an incident, that there should be an exchange of information of everyone involved.

A copy of the new Your Responsibility Code is included within this column and it is recommended to make sure you are up to speed on the matter. You will see the new code being posted, if they haven’t been already, at various high visibility areas throughout your favorite resort.

Byrd added that this was the right time to issue the new code because of the sport’s recent growth, “The sport has been dramatically renewed, I would say coming out of COVID, because people again realize the importance of outdoor recreation. The increased numbers across the country, made it a good time for the update to come out.”

Again, mentioned earlier but worth repeating is the fact that the first line for getting the safety word out there is through ski instructors and Byrd couldn’t agree more, “We are really pushing the ski areas to have their ski and snowboarder instructors be the leaders in getting the safety word out there with the new responsibility code. Because the instructors get the first shot at educating the beginner skiers and snowboarders, it is really critical for them to understand the need for the understanding of the responsibility code. The instructors are our frontline ambassadors on the issue and we couldn’t get the new word out without them.”

Many of you will be heading out to the slopes for the first time this season during National Safety Month, so I suggest taking the time to catch up with the new code and always remember, let gravity be your friend.

That’s it for this week, so thanks for joining me for my weekly ramblings. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Again, Happy New Year everyone!

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