Sean Scully: Avalanche safety: No laughing matter
Every day, people make bad decisions on the slopes. Cutting under ropes and skiing or riding into untracked territories is not only against the rules, it can have fatal consequences. When you decide to break the rules, you’re not only putting yourself at risk but the lives of others as well. If you are unfortunate enough to become injured in a closed territory, it makes rescuing operations much more complex than if you had stayed in bounds. Ski patrol is responsible for everyone’s safety on the mountain including their own. Backcountry rescue operations put the lives of ski patrol at risk. It is not out of the question that, when coming to your rescue, they may be caught in a fatal slide themselves. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, over the last 10 winters in the United States an average of 25 people each year lose their lives in a fatal avalanche accident. No matter what your skill level on the mountain is, it is important to have a strong knowledge of avalanche safety when heading to the slopes.
No matter what your skill level is on the mountain, it is vital to your safety and the safety of ski patrol to STAY IN BOUNDS. If a run is closed, there’s a good reason behind it. Closed runs are marked by ropes for your safety and should never be crossed. However, adventuring legally in the backcountry can be exhilarating and fun if the proper precautions are taken. Always carry a beacon, a shovel, and a probe pole when going backcountry. Wearing a helmet can save your life in an avalanche situation. Nearly 30 percent of avalanche fatalities are caused by head trauma (according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center). Wearing an Avalung will allow you to breathe up to one hour if you are completely buried. An air bag system also helps to keep victims on or very near the surface of an avalanche. For your own safety, take all these factors into account next time before cutting into closed territory. Most importantly take into account the men and women of the ski patrol who put their lives on the line to rescue complete strangers. You can show your appreciation to the ski patrol by not putting yourself at risk and staying on the trails.
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