Posted by: Kelley Dees | January 25, 2011

How to Stay Safe on the Slopes

Given recent events that have happened in Wyoming (see news story here), I think it’s important that we talk about slope safety. About 10 million people participated in skiing and/or snowboarding last year. There were 38 skiing/snowboarding related deaths for the 2009-2010 season.To put these numbers in perspective, consider that 900 people die per year from bicycling, 3600 people drown while swimming in public areas, and 39,000 Americans die in motor-vehicle accidents each year. Each life is significant and if we can do anything to prevent just one death or injury, everything that we do is worth it!

Since we live in a winter wonderland filled with snow, here are some tips from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA):

Things to Consider Before You Hit the Slopes:

  • Get in shape. While skiing is a great physical activity, you shouldn’t try to ski yourself into shape. You will enjoy it much more if you are physically fit.
  • Use the proper equipment. While you can find some great deals on snowboards and ski equipment at second-hand stores, always have your ski or snowboard bindings checked out and adjusted correctly at a local ski shop. You can also rent good ski or snowboarding equipment at resorts.
  • When you are shopping for skiwear, try to find fabrics that are water and wind-resistant. Look for wind flaps to shield zippers, snug cuffs at the wrists and ankles, collars that can be snuggled up to the chin, and drawstring that can be adjusted to keep you comfortable and keep the wind out. Be sure that you buy quality clothing and products…this isn’t an area you want to go cheap in!
  • Layers, layers, layers. Layering allows you to take into account your body’s constantly changing temperature. A good tip is to dress in polypropylene underwear (top and bottoms). This will feel good next to your skin, it dries quickly, and it will absorb sweat keeping you warm. Wear a turtleneck, sweater, and jacket over this.
  • Be prepared. Bring a headband or a hat with you to the slopes. Sixty percent of heat loss is through your head, so keep it covered! Wear gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm. Mittens are usually better for those susceptible to cold hands.
  • Wear sunscreen. The sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, especially at the high altitudes of our Wyoming ski resorts. Even on cloudy days, put on the sunscreen! Up to 80% of UV rays make it through clouds, fog, and haze.
  • Always wear eye protection. Have sunglasses and goggles with you. Skiing and snowboarding are more fun (and safer!) when you can see.
  • Take a lesson. Like learning anything else new, you will improve the most when you receive some guidance. The best way to improve is to take a lesson from a qualified instructor.

Things to Consider While You Are on the Slopes:

  • The most important thing in successful skiing/snowboarding is control. To have control, you must be aware of your technique, the terrain, and the skiers/snowboarders around you. Be aware of snow conditions and how they can change. As snow conditions become more firm, skiing gets hard and fast. Be sure to begin a run slowly.
  • Skiing and snowboarding require a mental and physical presence. This isn’t a walk in the park!
  • If you find yourself on a slope that exceeds your level of ability, leave your skis/snowboard on and side step down the slope.
  • A warm-up run prepares you mentally and physically for the day ahead.
  • Drink plenty of water. Be extra careful not to become dehydrated. Check out our post here about the importance of hydration.
  • Don’t drink and ski! Skiing and snowboarding do not mix well with alcohol or drugs. These lower your reaction time and your inhibitions, causing you to try stunts you probably aren’t capable of and causing you to be unable to dodge others around you. If you’re going to drink, save it for the end of the day when you are relaxing and don’t have anywhere else to go!
  • When you start to get tired, stop skiing. As you get tired, your reaction time begins to slow and this can cause serious accidents on the slopes.
  • Follow the seven safety rules of the slopes, found in the “Your Responsibility Code” below.

Your Responsibility Code

Skiing can be enjoyed in many ways, by many people of different levels of ability, even those needing specialized ski equipment. At ski areas, you might see people using alpine, snowboard, telemark, cross-country, and other specialized ski equipment, such as that used by skiers who are disabled. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy the slopes, always be courteous to others and be aware that there are elements of risk in skiing that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Observe the code below and share with other skiers in the responsibility for a great skiing/snowboarding experience.

  1. Always stay in control.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way.
  3. Stop in a safe place for you and others.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.
  5. Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
  7. Know how to use the lifts safely.

While we can’t prevent all accidents, we can be prepared and hopefully at least prevent the severity by being aware and practicing these safety tips.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from the National Ski Areas Association: Ski and Snowboarding Tips.


This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from



  1. This was a superb go through, thank you for sharing.

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