Mountain Blog

Be Aware Out There

Nancy Story - Sunday, January 14, 2018

 2017 Safety Poster Contest Winner

       A poster contest for kids is one way ski resorts across the country are honoring January as National Safety Awareness Month. But the message for all ages is this: don’t be a poster child for unsafe behavior on the slopes.

At Crystal Mountain, we’re serving up a tasty incentive for young skiers to be slope smart. From Jan. 20-27th, kids are encouraged to create a poster highlighting one of the seven skier/rider responsibility codes. Poster paper will be available at the Mountain Adventure Zone, Snowsports Desk or Park at Waters Edge beginning Jan. 20th. Completed posters can be turned in to our Snowsports Desk to receive a Crystal Crispy voucher.

Here in the mitten, preaching safety on the slopes is nothing new. Michigan’s Ski Area Safety Act was passed in 1962, making it the nation’s oldest ski safety law. Skiers have been advised to be slope-wise since Crystal Mountain’s early rope tow and Pomalift days. What took root in that 56 year-old legislation has evolved into the seven-point Skier Responsibility Codes that today are printed on every lift ticket.
• 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.
• Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

             Heading to work on the hill                                           Ruth Cunningham

Charged with enforcing those safety standards are Crystal’s four paid weekday patrollers six paid weekend patrollers, 72 volunteer patrollers, and 20 volunteer Mountain Hosts. Among this group is Crystal‘s first paid patroller, Ruth Cunningham, who’s still out on the snow after nearly 35 years of helping to keep our slopes safe. There have been plenty of positive changes over the years with regards to slope safety, Ruth observed. “Fewer ropes and fences on the sides of runs, lifts which are much more user-friendly, and skiers wearing helmets have contributed to a safer skiing environment,” she said. “The new equipment makes it so much easier for people to ski”. And maintaining that equipment is key to safety as well, according to Joe Bolduc, Crystal’s director of risk management and longtime patroller. “Skiers should have their bindings tuned up annually to make sure they’re releasing properly,” he noted.

They’ll want those bindings working properly if they commit the most common rule infraction: excessive speed and skiing out of control. Just because Midwestern hills lack the length or steeps of more mountainous terrain doesn’t mean there’s less danger. Being slope-wise applies to every vertical rise, whether it’s Crystal’s 375 feet or the mountains out West. It goes without saying, that a fundamental requirement of the code is that all skiers and riders stay in control and be able to avoid other people and objects on the slopes. If you’re approaching from behind, it’s up to YOU to slow down enough to avoid others before a collision results. But those skiers & riders below you also have responsibilities. It’s unsafe to stop on a ski slope where terrain obscures you from the view of those approaching from above (think about those small rises midway down Buck and Loki). When you stop to rest or re-focus, or fumble with equipment, make that stop on the side, not the middle, of the hill. Always look above for oncoming skiers/riders before resuming skiing. Unexpected stops and starts can make it more difficult even for well-intentioned and skilled skiers to avoid a collision.
So take the kids in for poster paper, have them finish their creation, and pick up a Crispy voucher . Teach them to be slope sensible by role-modeling all points of the code at all times. Stay safe out there!
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