It’s that time of year: great snow, bluebird skies and Safety Week. The Safety Week campaign, sponsored by the National Ski Area Association to help make the sport we all love so well, the safest it can be, kicks off Saturday. If you ski on Baldy or Dollar from the 19th through the 26th, you will know there is something special going on. According to Sun Valley Ski Patrol’s Sean Glaccum, patrollers are working hard to make the campaign both informative and fun.
The educational part of Safety Week focuses on helping skiers and boarders know how to keep the mountain as safe and enjoyable as possible for everyone. First and foremost to Patrol’s education component is “knowing the code.” The National Ski Patrol Responsibility Code is a mountain user’s reference that everyone, from seasoned skiers to absolute beginners, should be familiar with. In case you missed the oversized posters detailing the Code on the Christmas and Challenger chairlifts, here they are:
(1) Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
(2) People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
(3) You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
(4) Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
(5) Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
(6) Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
(7) Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Members of Sun Valley Ski Patrol have also been in area schools this week, helping children understand the importance of skiing safe. Glaccum said this is one of everyone’s favorite parts of Safety Week. “The kids are great. They really listen and they get it,” he said. “Reaching out to the community is meaningful for all of us.”
The fun part of Safety Week takes many forms. Right now, an absolutely mammoth safety “temple” is being erected on the top of Baldy. Patrol’s amazing avalanche dogs will make personal appearances at the top of the gondola. The first Tucker Snowcat will be on display at Dollar. Correctly answered safety trivia will win you a free cocoa. There are prizes, buttons and schwag galore.
Everyone in the Sun Valley mountain family is getting in on Safety Week. Snowsports instructors are emphasizing both chairlift safety and “lids on kids” — the importance of properly fitting helmets. To help with this second initiative, all retail outlets on the mountain will answer any of your helmet questions and help you find a perfect fit. Safety also comes with comfort and knowledge, so Guest Services is out in force, helping mountain users acquaint themselves with the layout of the ski runs. Folks at the ticket counters are doing the same and will happily go over mountain maps with you and make suggestions that suit your ability level and interests.
Another important (and free) service will also be provided in honor of Safety Week. Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports will offer ski binding checks to help people stay in their skis when they should, and release out of their skis when they shouldn’t. The program is available at River Run, Warm Springs and Dollar, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The binding check takes about 20 minutes and requires your skis and one of your boots. Feel free to leave your skis and boots overnight to take advantage of this service (not to mention warm boots the next day).
Last year, Sun Valley’s Ski Patrol was rated number one out of 425 national patrols in their ability to interface effectively and helpfully with skiers and boarders on their mountains and with the community at large. They are motivated to hold on to the distinction, so expect to see a lot of white crosses all over the hills this coming week.
As I always say, our Patrol members are some of the most qualified, helpful and friendly people anywhere. They are EMT’s, Paramedics; explosives and ropes experts. They love their job. They are here to help. Be sure to say hello to one this week and thank them for all they do. Also give a shout out to Guest Services, the people at the ticket windows and all mountain employees. They are all doing their very best to make sure you are having the time of your life, and staying safe.