Tips for keeping kids safe on the slopes
Whether it’s a sweet, steaming cup of hot cocoa, soaring above treetops on the ski lift, or the pride of making it down a run without falling, children will always remember their first experience skiing. Ski resorts can be magical places for kids, but freezing temperatures and thousands of acres of terrain can pose many hazards for young skiers. But, with a little planning, and the right gear, parents can help their kids ski more safely, creating positive memories they’ll always cherish.
Step one is familiarizing children with the National Ski Area Association’s (NSAA) Skier Responsibility Code (see below). When parents arrive at the resort, they should point out "SLOW" signs and boundary ropes to children, making sure they understand where they can and cannot ski. Also, remind children to never obstruct the trail, especially if there is a blind spot above them. Just like crossing the street, children should look both ways (especially up) before crossing any ski run.
Once children understand the resort rules, try making a game of identifying the colorful uniforms of resort staff and ski patrol. In case of an emergency, remind your kids that they can always find help at the top and bottom of every lift.
Getting separated from your family can happen to anyone on the mountain, but having a "What to do if you’re lost" plan is a great idea. Making an information card with your name, number and accommodation details a great idea for younger children who may forget. A few minutes jotting down your information and sticking it in a secure coat pocket could save hours of stress.
Although parents may depend on cell phones to contact their kids, reception on the mountain can be unreliable especially during inclement weather. Not to mention, it’s very easy for children (and adults) to lose their phones on the chairlift or in deep snow. Being prepared with specific meeting times and locations can save the day, even if the mountain claims your cell phone.
When it comes to ski gear, Kurt Hammel, Assistant Manager of Children’s Programs at Deer Valley, suggests a few items beyond a helmet (which is essential) to protect your children. Starting from the ground up, parents should invest in proper ski socks. "Cotton footies or ankle socks just don’t work," says Hammel. A single pair of breathable wool, or synthetic ski socks will keep even the tiniest toes warm.
Having the appropriate size ski boot is equally important. Hand-me-down boots may lose liner density, causing children’s feet and ankles to be unstable while skiing. A snug but comfortable fit is key for maintaining control and avoiding dreaded "shin-bang."
Don’t forget about eyewear when dressing the kids. Goggles are very important for protecting their eyes against wind, snow and strong UV rays. Since Park City ski resorts are built at such high elevations, the risk of Photokeratitis or "snow blindness," is much greater. The increased UV rays also means applying face sunscreen during any weather.
A good, water-resistant glove or mitten is another key for a successful ski day. Younger children may benefit from easy-access mittens. "I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled getting a sweaty little hand back into gloves," says Mya Franti, Manager of Children’s Programs at Deer Valley.
The biggest issue Franti has faced during her 21 years at the Deer Valley, is children ending up on inappropriate terrain. "Just because a child took a lesson, doesn’t mean parents should take their kids to the top of the mountain," says Franti. Sending children down runs that are too challenging can result in a loss of confidence and a big yard sale.
Luckily, serious ski injuries are rare for children "because their bones aren’t brittle and they don’t tense when they fall," says Franti. Unlike adults who could be out for the entire season after a big spill, children’s developing bodies are more capable of bouncing back from ski-related tumbles.
Parents who enroll their children in ski school should rest assured, knowing that local resorts are taking extra measures to keep their kids safe this season. Each morning, Deer Valley staff members have a meeting to discuss the daily weather report and plan their ski school lessons accordingly. "Some days are extra windy and we require gaiters and goggles for all ski schoolers," says Franti. In those cases, the resort provides necessary gear for any child who needs it.
"Every safety concern is met and dealt with on a daily basis," says Franti, who has dedicated her winters to making sure every little skier has a safe, and unforgettable time on the mountain.
NSAA Skiers Responsibility Code
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