Hit the Slopes Safely

January is National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month!

Are you hitting the slopes this winter? From sledding and snowman-building to skiing and snowboarding, snow creates opportunities to get outside and enjoy the winter season. Many ski areas in the United States are on located on public lands flush with natural beauty, including more than 122 ski areas operating on National Forest Service lands.

Viewer Tip: If you’re one of the millions strapping on skis or a snowboard and heading downhill this winter, keep these safety tips in mind to protect yourself and others…and have fun!

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Become familiar with trail signs and what each symbol represents.
  • Remember that “Objects are Closer than They Appear.” Stay in control and make sure you have the ability to stop to avoid fellow skiers and snowboarders, trees and other objects.
  • When using a freestyle terrain course, make a plan for each feature you are going to use, look before you leap, start small and work your way up.
  • Don’t leave a groomed trail alone. Having a skiing or snowboarding partner will help you in case you become trapped in deep snow.
  • Know the power of snow. If you’re heading outside of ski-area boundaries, brush up on avalanche safety. Untracked powder snow can turn into a wave of power in seconds, taking out everything in its path. Knowing search and rescue techniques can save your life!

In addition to the safety tips above, brush up on Your Responsibility Code – seven common sense pointers that will help you stay safe and enjoy sharing the slopes with other skiers and snowboarders.

(Sources: U.S. Forest Service Ski Area Program.http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/ski_water_rights/documents/ski_area_program_info.pdf; National Ski Areas Association, “Safety Programs,” http://www.nsaa.org/safety-programs/; Travel+Leisure, “America’s Most-Visited Ski Resorts,” http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-visited-ski-resorts/2; National Ski Patrol, “Backcountry Avalanche Safety,” http://www.nsp.org/slopesafety/backcountrysafety.aspx;  Image courtesy of the Forest Service)

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