It's mid-January and do you know what that means? Winter sports season is underway! Whether you frequent some of our beautiful Maine mountains such as Sugarloaf, Sunday River or Shawnee Peak, or out-of-state areas, skiing and snowboarding is a wonderful way to spend the cold Winter months. Skiing and snowboarding, like many other fun-filled pastimes, can be filled with potential risks if proper safety measures aren't taken. By following the below tips, you will ensure the safety of yourself and others out on the slopes:
- Wear appropriate cold weather clothing, and use a helmet for maximum protection - According to the National Ski Patrol, helmets can reduce your risk of a head injury by up 50 percent. For additional information on the many benefits of wearing a helmet while enjoying winter sports, please go here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/165906-why-you-should-always-wear-a-helmet-while-skiing/
- Ski or snowboard with a friend - Even if you are an advanced skier or boarder, it is always a good idea to have a partner there to look out for you. Select a designated meeting place at the bottom of the hill beforehand in case you are separated while on the trail.
- Know your limits - Be mindful of your skiing or snowboarding level and respect your limits. Choose trails that you know you can complete. Click here for an example of ski trail level symbols: http://www.sugarloaf.com/TheMountain/DailyReport/trail_lifts.html
- Observe slope etiquette - Remember that those in front of you or below you on the trails have the right of way. Prior to starting down a trail or merging onto a new trail, look uphill and yield to others.
- Follow instructions - Be vigilant of all signs and posted warnings on the mountain. Be sure to keep away from closed trails and other "Do Not Enter" areas.
- Know how to use the lifts - Prior to using any chair lifts on the mountain, be aware of how to load, ride and unload the lift safely.
- Obtain important safety contact information - Carry a reliable communication device while on the mountain, such as a walkie talkie, and know how to contact Ski Patrol should you need their services.
- Try to prevent altitude sickness - If skiing or snowboarding at particularly high elevation (those that are over 8,000 feet) resorts, altitude sickness can occur. Be sure to stay hydrated, load up on a carb-heavy diet (carbohydrates require less oxygen to metabolize), be careful about overexerting yourself and be vigilant of any symptoms that may pop up.
Interested in testing your skiing/snowboarding safety knowledge? The National Ski Patrol offers a Snow Smarts Safety IQ Quiz: https://www.nsp.org/slopesafety/slopesafetyquiz.aspx
Here's to a winter season full of fresh powder and a safe and enjoyable time on the mountain!