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5 Tips to "Defensive" Skiing

5 Tips to "Defensive" Skiing

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By David Billings, Owner, Corduroy Inn


My daughter just turned 16 and is starting to drive. She is mature beyond her years and very responsible. I am not worried about her driving. However, like most parents, I am terrified of all the other crazy drivers on the road. It takes years of driving experience to become good “defensive” drivers, an experience that my daughter does not have yet. So for now, I hold my breath and say a little prayer every time my daughter leaves the house!


While contemplating this new stress in my life, it occurred to me that the same thing can be said about skiing and snowboarding. Newer skiers/snowboarders do not have the same understanding and experience to know how to ski/ride “defensively”. One of the biggest risks of injury to new skiers/snowboarders is from other crazy skiers/snowboarders hitting you. So I thought for this week’s blog, I would offer up 5 “defensive” tips to help you minimize your risk of being hit by an out of control skier or snowboarder.


The information presented below is different than the “Skier Responsibility Code”, which is published at all ski resorts around the country. The Responsibility Code is like the rules of the road and you should read and be familiar with this code. However, the points I am presenting below are how to protect yourself from other skiers and snowboarders who do not follow the Responsibility Code.


Never ever stop in a location on the trail where you are blind to the people skiing or snowboarding from above you. This would be, for example, below a knoll or mound in the trail where people above the mound can’t see you. Stopping like this is perhaps the most dangerous thing you can do in skiing/snowboarding, because someone skiing at high speed over the knoll may not see you in time to avoid hitting you. Imagine being hit by a 225-pound man at high speed when you are standing still or worse sitting on the ground.


When approaching a knoll or other blind area below you, assume someone is stopped in the blind spot. This is the reverse of the above point. A lot of beginners don’t know point 1 above and may stop in these locations. So when you are approaching these blind areas, make a turn above the blind area so as to moderate your speed. That way you can quickly avoid someone if need be.


If you do stop on the trail, stop on the sides of the trail as close to the trees as possible. An out-of-control skier or snowboarder barreling his way down the hill will try to navigate himself to avoid the trees and therefore will stay clear of you on the side of the trail. If you instead stop in the middle of the trail, the out-of-control skier will be forced to ski either close to you or close to the trees. You can guess what decision he would make.


When skiing with a small child, ski about 10 or 20 feet uphill from him/her and mirror his/her exact moves. This is probably the most important tip for you to pay attention to if you have young children. A child weighs a lot less than an adult, a child tends to ski slower than an adult, and a child being smaller is less visible than an adult. These things combined make it very dangerous for a child to be hit by a skier from above. Now, when I say mirror the child’s exact moves, I don’t mean follow them. Keep yourself immediately uphill from your child at all times. If they turn left, you turn left. If they turn right, you turn right. Keep yourself immediately uphill from your child at all times so that you will act as a shield. The out-of-control skier will either hit you instead of your child or in avoiding you, will avoid your child by a wider margin.


Always wear a helmet. This goes without saying, but as a beginner, you are more likely to fall and more likely to be hit by someone else. A broken leg can be fixed, a severe brain injury cannot.


I have been skiing for over 40 years and I always follow these tips. I have never (I am knocking on wood as I write this) been injured in all these years from being hit by someone else. Skiing and snowboarding are fantastic sports. With a little attention to these defensive techniques, you will be spending your evenings “après skiing” instead of nursing your wounds back at the hotel. 

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