Skiing Safety Rules

Skiing Safety Rules
Alpine and cross-country skiing are rigorous sports, requiring planning and diligence to account for potential physical and climatic challenges. A full set of correctly maintained equipment and a basic level of physical fitness act as hedges against unanticipated problems.


Before heading out on the slopes, there are a number of things that can be done to make skiing a more enjoyable experience. For example, a basic physical fitness regimen emphasizing limberness and leg strength should be maintained well in advance of ski outings.

It is also important to check weather and snow conditions before embarking, particularly when venturing into remote backcountry locations. Consult the ski patrol or forest service if you will be accessing areas controlled by them.

Let someone who isn't going with you know where you will be and when you expect to return. Obtain a commitment from them to act in your behalf if you don't return as planned. Determine how to contact emergency services ahead of time.

Familiarize yourself with the terrain to be crossed, and be realistic about your skiing ability compared with the anticipated difficulty of the outing. Always check your equipment and have it adjusted or repaired if necessary.

Equipment and Supplies

Always wear a protective helmet. Bring and use ski goggles to enhance visibility in poor lighting conditions. Wear layers of clothes that can be adjusted or removed as needed based on your level of exertion and weather conditions. Have synthetic layers next to the skin to wick away perspiration and breathable fabrics on the outside to facilitate venting.

If venturing into backcountry, bring a backpack equipped at a minimum with a map, basic first-aid kit, water, energy-restoring food, cell phone, compass, flashlight, matches and binoculars. Additional equipment useful when crossing avalanche-prone terrain includes an emergency transponder, shovel and collapsing pole. A portable GPS unit can be invaluable.

Other Measures

Embark with at least one other person of comparable skiing ability. Outside of controlled ski areas, stay well-spaced in areas of avalanche potential or close together in heavily forested areas.

Within designated ski areas, observe the seven rules of the Skier Responsibility Code: always stay in control; people ahead of you have the right of way; stop in a safe place for you and others; whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield; use devices to help prevent runaway equipment; observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails; know how to use lifts safely.

Be realistic about your ability to continue if fatigue sets in, you become injured or weather conditions worsen and return home or to a safe location as the situation dictates.

Article Written By Gary Olson

Gary Olson is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and designer with 34 years of experience. His work has appeared in such publications as Sailing, Northwest Living, 5280, The Arizona Republic, The Denver Post and many other newspapers and magazines. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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