Industry experts emphasize basics of ski safety at annual summit
Avoiding collisions a focus of webinar
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Karen Zobro broke her femur.
The Alliance of Skier and Rider Responsibility hosted its third annual Safety Summit via webcast Wednesday night, hoping to spread the word about how best to prepare beginners to safely make their way down the slopes for the first time.
During Safety Summit events in years past, alliance members and participants have packed into a crowded room at the Summit County Community and Senior Center for panel discussions with experts about how to avoid accidents on the mountain, efforts by area resorts to improve safety and the legal options for and ramifications of collisions.
The Safety Summit III approached the topic from a slightly different angle, focusing on making sure every new skier and snowboarder arrives for their first days on the mountain with the skills and knowledge to keep themselves and others safe.
“This is all about what the alliance has hoped to do,” founder Katherine Jeter said. “We have learned that what we need to be doing, and the thing we can contribute, is educating people who come to the mountains. If we all do our part — the alliance, the newspapers, the equipment manufacturers — then the person coming to the mountain is going to get the message.”
The alliance started as a grassroots movement out of Jeter’s Frisco condo in March 2018. She started the organization a year after suffering a serious injury on the slopes of Copper Mountain Resort when a snowboarder ran into her from behind and sent her tumbling down the hill. She suffered fractures in both legs and a shattered ankle, and she spent months in rehabilitation.
But even as the alliance has worked to educate people in Summit County and beyond about the dangers of risky skiing, collisions continue to be a problem. Jeter dedicated Wednesday’s webcast to Frisco resident Karen Zobro, who was seriously injured after a collision at Copper on Monday, Feb. 22.
Gladys Nieto, Zobro’s wife, said that based on second-hand accounts of the incident, Zobro was hit from behind by a snowboarder on the High Point ski run. Nieto said Zobro doesn’t remember the crash but was left with bleeding in her brain and a fractured femur and required surgery to place multiple rods to stabilize her pelvis. She’s still recovering in the hospital.
“She’s hanging in there,” Nieto said in an interview with the Summit Daily News on Thursday. “We have such a great group of friends, and they’re all doing their best. Until we get back home, we won’t know exactly what we’re going to need. But we have a fantastic community and group of friends.”
Nieto said Zobro hopefully would be able to return home soon but that the incident continues to underscore the importance of basic skills and safety knowledge at ski areas.
During the summit Wednesday, a pair of experts provided their perspectives on how best to teach children and new skiers and snowboarders those basic skills. The presenters included Libby Ludlow, a former U.S. Ski Team member, national champion and 2006 Olympian, and Nathan Jarvis, a children’s specialist ski instructor at Park City Mountain Resort and founder of Smartful Kids.
Jarvis discussed the importance of making sure new skiers and riders understand the Your Responsibility Code and the significance of ensuring everyone appreciates various types of skiing — like frequent turning vs. straight-lining — and develops the skills to use them appropriately on different parts of the mountain.
Jarvis said skiers shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when they see someone, especially a friend, doing something wrong.
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.
Source: National Ski Areas Association
Jarvis also emphasized that newer skiers and riders should be given the opportunity to learn at a reasonable pace and not be asked to take on terrain that is too difficult.
“People get impatient to share what they think is a lot of fun,” Jarvis said. “… If you love something, you want to get the people with you and say, ‘Let’s go do this.’ If you can’t do it safely, you’re going to have an accident, and you’re going to lose the very thing you wanted to have happen, which is for your buddy to become your ski or snowboarding partner.”
Ludlow noted that there are numerous fundamental skills, like balance and body position, that people can practice on easier slopes that would help friends or kids understand the basics and would translate to improving their skiing or riding anywhere on the mountain.
“I think one thing we all need to remind ourselves is kids don’t learn to walk in one day,” Jarvis said. “There’s a process to gain the skills that make it safe for us to go into new places do new things. … You learn blue skills on green hills, and you learn black skills on blue hills. You don’t jump onto the steepest thing you can find and tell your friends it’s easy.”
Ludlow and Jarvis said taking lessons can be extremely valuable to new and more experienced skiers, and they emphasized that making sure someone has fun during their first few days on the mountain will help them stick with the sport and continue to improve.
“There are just really commonsense things — that when we’re teaching friends who are new to the sport how to navigate on the hill — that we can incorporate, and it doesn’t have to be a stiff and fun-sponge kind of thing to talk about skiing,” Ludlow said. “It’s something that’s part of a pleasurable experience being out on the hill with people we love.”
A recording of the webcast with tips for safe and fun skiing can be viewed on the Alliance of Skier and Rider Responsibility’s website at SafeSlopesUS.com.
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