January is safety month at Aspen Snowmass. While safety isn’t confined to a single month, we like to use this time as a reminder to reinforce every possible way that people should stay safe on the mountain.
With this in mind, the Aspen Snowmass Ski Patrol directors have compiled their top tips for staying safe while on the mountain.
1. Check Your Equipment
As you get ready to hit the slopes, check skis or snowboard and be sure your equipment functions properly. Don't let malfunctioning bindings ruin your day. Have a local shop do a function test on your bindings.
2. Cover Your Bases
Does your daily gear bag and clothing have all the necessary accessories? Stay warm and comfortable out on the slopes with goggles, helmet, hat, gloves, sunscreen, lip balm, water, snacks, socks and extra layers.
3. Know the Rules of the Slopes
The Responsibility Code is printed on every trail map and reads: Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects. People ahead of you have the right of way (it is your responsibility to avoid them; you must not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above ‚ whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others; always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment; observe all posted signs and warnings (keep off closed trails and out of closed areas); and, finally, prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
4. Pre-Ride (Then Re-Ride) Before You Free-Ride
In terrain parks, be sure to use park etiquette and common sense: pre-ride then re-ride before you free ride; features change daily and sometimes in the course of a day; snow conditions can also change speed factors on your approaches.
5. Beware of Seasonal Conditions
Patrollers keep areas closed until they are safe for everyone: Early season offers hidden obstacles and holes in terrain; hazards exist that are not marked; large snow storms and/or wind present potential avalanche hazards.
6. Know What to Do When an Accident Happens
Cross skis or place the snowboard above the injured; make note of potential injury type and location of the incident (look for landmarks). Call 970-925-1220 and ask for patrol dispatch at the mountain you are on. If possible, stay on the scene until patrol arrives. Our patrollers are highly trained individuals — most have at least EMT certification — and some are paramedics, so you can trust that the care following an accident on the hill is very professional. Don't let an injured person ski or ride down.
7. Know Your Limits
This is one of the most essential safety tips: stay within your skill and fitness levels. Don't let friends talk you into places that will get you into trouble.
8. Take a Lesson
Want to expand your limits? There is no better (or safer) way to do it than to take a lesson with a specially trained professional. The Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School is staffed with highly trained Pros who are well versed in the latest teaching methods and techniques.
9. Venture Into the Backcountry at Your Own Risk
If you venture beyond ski area boundaries, be educated on backcountry conditions and special equipment for necessary precautions. Inquire with local organizations that offer classes and ask the ski patrol for recommendations.