There is nothing I love more than seeing the next generation of kids enjoying the mountains. Especially when they are in a group without their parents. It reminds me of the strong, life-long friendships I made in the mountains and the ‘crew’ I was proudly part of. Those early experiences of the mountains, learning new skills and sharing them with my peers gave me the confidence to boldly try new things. That is something that I carried into adulthood and a successful career on and off the slopes.
Letting your kids go out in the mountains alone can be a daunting thought for any parent. While I don’t currently have kids, I can’t wait until my three nieces form their own mountain rat pack and come back telling me stories of how the did a jump and went REALLY fast.
In anticipation of that day, I wanted to share a few tips and lessons that I believe are valuable points to share with the next generation to ensure they (and others) stay safe on the mountain. Many of these come from my time teaching kids snowboard school in Whistler, Canada. Others are just common sense that may or may not occur to the young and speed-hungry!
Both skiers and snowboarders have blind spots!
As we don’t have eyes on the back of our heads (yet!), we need to know what to check before we do a turn or make a drastic change in direction. Just like you would in a car. For snowboarders this is over your leading shoulder (left shoulder if you are regular, right shoulder if you are goofy). For skiers, it is simply your left and right peripheral vision.
Get your little ones aware of their blind spots and have them remember to always check them!
Look up the slope before crossing
Many collisions on the piste happen when one person travels across the slope without looking up hill. This is when you need to check your blind spots! Just like crossing lanes in a car, you will always check the lane you are about to travel into. The same goes with crossing the slope. Make sure there is no one coming towards you, and if they are, slow down to let them pass.
Look out for merging slopes
Another hazard on the mountain is when two slopes merge or join together. In North America and Canada, they are great at marking these areas with a ‘Merge’ sign. But this isn’t the case everywhere.
When two slopes merge, skiers will be coming fast from both directions. Always slow down at a merging point. Again, always look uphill at the slope that you are merging on to.
What are tree wells?
Trees are really fun to ski but they can be incredibly dangerous. In Whistler, the majority of accidents happen from tree wells.
A tree well is a hole that forms at the base of a tree. It is because the snow has been captured on the foliage above, and hasn’t been able to fill the ground around the tree trunk. If you fall into this hole and hit the tree, all the snow that is on the tree’s branches can fall on you and burry you.
Showing your kids pictures of tree wells and teaching them to not ski too close to the base of tree is a great skill that will carry them into a long, safe life of tree skiing.
How to ski on cat tracks?
Cat tracks are the (flat) roads that connect slopes or usually take you safely down to the base. They are often the green slopes on trail maps and any one day of skiing a resort will result in having to take a cat track or two.
For beginner snowboarders, cat tracks are especially hard as it is tricky to keep a flat base, especially when it is icy.
Travel on cat tracks can be made safe for all by:
- Remembering not to cross the slope without looking up the slope for others.
- If some of the jumps on the side look fun, you can only hit these if there is no one around you (behind you), that you may hit once you land. Remember you will again cross the slope when you land your jump.
- Maintaining a predictable speed and direction – just like you would in a car traveling in a lane
I hope these tips are helpful and give you some ideas on other tips you may want to make your kids aware of. Skiing and snowboarding is so much fun and these skills will stay with us for life, helping a day skiing at a resort safe and fun for all.