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Skiing is one of the most fun and exciting activities for kids, but without safety skills, it can also be one of the most dangerous. After years of being a ski instructor and 13 years of skiing with my own kids, I’ve learned that while kids rarely hear about ski safety, it’s one of the things that they need to be reminded of the most.
Why We Need To Teach Ski Safety To Kids
I’ve been skiing nearly me entire life and the number of close encounters that I’ve had where I was almost in a ski accident is more than I could ever remember. The ski accident that stood out to me though? The time that we were tree skiing with our kids, and my son hit a tree. He was young, and this was one of the first times we had let him ski the trees without us holding onto his harness. Watching him, I could see that he stopped paying attention for just a fraction of a second, and as I was screaming at him to stop, he skied face first into a tree. I was just a few feet away, and he crumpled to the ground, and for a moment, my world felt out of control.
Luckily, he was okay, but things could have turned out VERY bad right then. He wasn’t skiing terrain above his level, he wasn’t being dangerous, he wasn’t going too fast, and the whole time both of his parents were just a few feet away. It was just a momentary lapse in attention and that’s all it took. You see, ski safety needs to happen ALL THE TIME, and since skiing is such a dangerous sport, kids need to be reminded to ski safely ALL THE TIME.
A Note To Parents About Ski Safety
If you want your kids to take ski safety seriously, then you have to as well. Ski safety is non-negotiable and kids need to know that. We go over family ski safety often and our kids know that if they break one of our safety rules, they’ll be sitting a few runs out, while everyone else gets to keep skiing.
Truthfully, we don’t make a huge deal about it because missing some family ski runs is a big deal in our family and it usually goes something like this:
“Hey buddy, I noticed that you just cut right in front of that lady skiing over there, and that’s against the rules. When we get to the lodge, take your skis off and we’ll come back and grab you in a few runs”
Shouting at our kids to “Slow Down” “Watch Out” and “Be Careful” isn’t teaching ski safety. Safety starts before kids ever reach the slopes.
Instead of teaching kids how to be safe on the ski hill, start with WHY they need to ski safely and then teach them how to do that.
When To Teach Kids About Ski Safety
The ideal time to teach kids about ski safety is before you ever leave home. The reality is that kids won’t understand all aspects of ski safety until they’re on the hill. We use our rides up the chairlift to point out (in a nonjudgemental and shame free way) the places where we see problems with ski safety AND when we see other skiers practicing good ski safety. When kids see the problems of not skiing safely, they start to see the importance of family ski safety.
Note: If your child uses a ski harness, you should know that over 75% of parents use them incorrectly. Start modeling good ski safety by learning how to use a ski harness the right way.
Before you ever take your kids skiing, give them the best possible chance at a great experience by talking to them about ski safety in advance.
Before your kids head to the ski area, make sure that they understand these 10 essential things about skiing safety.
10 Ski Safety Tips Every Kid (and Adult) Should Know and Follow
We’ve picked what we consider the top ski safety tips that kids need to follow. Are there more? Absolutely! Pay close attention to where you’re skiing and your kids’ skills to determine if your family needs to adopt additional rules to follow on skis.
Ski in control
Skiing in control is the most important thing for kids to know about ski safety. If people go too fast on their skis, they might fall down and hurt themselves and are a risk to other people. It is important to teach children how to control the speed and direction of their skiing while they are skiing for everyone’s safety.
Additionally, we also point out when other skiers are out of control so the kids can recognize other skiers who are in over their heads. If they see someone who is skiing out of control or dangerously, we show them how to identify them and avoid skiers like that for their own safety.
Parent tip: One of the best ways to get kids to ski in control is to teach them how with proper skills. Before they go on any terrain, make sure that they know how to get down the hill and especially how to stop. If you’re uncertain what your kids need to know to safely ski new terrain, consider signing them up for ski lessons.
Stay together while skiing
While you obviously need to give other people space while skiing, there are huge benefits to skiing together as a group. With group skiing, there are always others who can assist anybody who has a problem (especially essential with younger children or beginning skiers). In addition, it’s a lot easier to ensure that no one is skiing beyond their skill level if everyone is skiing together and you can keep each other in check. It’s also good to remind kids that it’s a lot more enjoyable to ski with others rather than just ski alone all day. Skiing together keeps everyone safer, and is essential for parents trying to ski with more than one kid at a time.
Parent tip: Pick a spot a little further down the hill where everyone can see and agree to meet there before you even start skiing down. Keep picking new points all down the mountain, and make sure that everyone knows that stopping at these meeting points is nonnegotiable. Our kids know if they don’t stop and wait, they’ll be sitting OUT.
Set a safe meeting place if you get separated
When you’re skiing as a family, it’s really easy for someone to take a wrong turn and get separated. While the ideal situation is to have each person have their own handheld radio, the reality is that setting up a safe meeting point is your best option for ski safety if you get separated.
As soon as you arrive at the ski mountain, choose a secure meeting spot where your family may congregate if someone gets separated. Have your children point out the location on the trail map and remind them about where your meeting spot is several times throughout the day.
Parent tip: Take a photo of your children before the day starts. They might get separated from you and you might need help finding them from other skiers or from ski patrol. It is also good to dress them in bright clothes so they are easy to identify as they ski down the mountain.
Show respect to the ski patrol and obey signs
Teach kids that the ski resort rules are there for a reason. Closed areas are often closed because of a safety hazard (often avalanche risks), and kids need to be taught to respect all closures. While not exclusively, teens are often the biggest culprits of not obeying posted signs or breaking the rules and trying to outrun the ski patrolers enforcing the rules. Teach your kids that the ski patrol is there to keep everyone safe, so show them respect. Whether that’s avoiding closures, or slowing down in slow skiing areas, ski patrolers set up rules to keep everyone safe.
Parent tip: If one of your kids seems to often break rules at the ski area, talk to them about why. See if maybe taking them on more challenging terrain can be a better way to push their limits.
Check to make sure your gear is functioning properly
Ski gear that works properly is often overlooked but can go a long way toward keeping yourself and others safe. Check everyone’s ski gear once a month to make sure that bindings are properly adjusted, that brakes engage when skis fall off, and that the proper DIN settings are in place on bindings in case of a fall.
Wear a helmet for safety when skiing
Helmet wearing is now becoming the norm in the ski industry and with good reason. So many major injuries are prevented because of helmet use, and they can save your life in a collision. Even if you’re a great skier, you never know when someone might end up hitting YOU so make sure that everyone wears a helmet.
Parent tip: Start ski helmet use for kids as soon as they start skiing, and make it a normal part of their ski gear routine. If you have kids who are complaining about wearing a helmet, let them pick out their own good-fitting helmet at your local ski shop or check out our recommendations here.
Practice getting up safely after falling
Skiing is a difficult sport and all children and beginners learning to ski are prone to falling on skis fairly frequently. Make sure your kids know how to get up after a fall safely. This means that their skis are angled across the hill and to the side of the trail when feasible, which is a good habit to get into. Children often get up with their skis pointing downhill and crash again or endanger others.
Parent tip: Have young kids practice learning how to get up in the backyard, so they are more comfortable doing it when they get to the ski hill.
Learn to stop where you’re visible to others on skis
Teach kids that there are safe and dangerous places to stop on skis. Above all, they need to stop at the top of the hill, or slightly before the hill starts so that they are the most visible to other skiers. If they stop just below a new slope, skiers coming down the mountain will have a very difficult time seeing them. It’s also a good habit to practice stopping on the side of the trail rather than in the middle of the ski run.
Know who has the right of way
Make sure to teach kids on skis that the person in front of them has the right-of-way at all times. You may never know exactly where they will ski next, therefore make sure to provide them with ample room on all sides. Also, before you start skiing after stopping, look uphill to ensure that you don’t ski right in front of someone else.
Parent tip: Find areas that aren’t as crowded when your kids are just learning to ski. When children are concentrating so hard on learning to stop and turn on their skis, it’s difficult for them to remember and figure out who has the right of way. Allow them some room and a good amount of grace while they’re learning.
Know your limits
It’s critical to teach your children not only their own limits but also the limits of others when you’re skiing with them. This helps them to know what terrain they can and can not safely ski, and helps them to keep others in check as well. We often take friends with us who are just learning how to ski, so we remind our kids often that they shouldn’t pressure their friends to ski on harder terrain before they’re ready.
Parent tip: When kids are ready to make the jump to higher terrain, make sure you are there or they are with an adult or ski instructor who can help. Different types of terrain need different skills so it’s good to have someone that can help you learn the skills needed for that terrain.
Remember, ski safety isn’t just about you. It’s about keeping other people safe on the hill too, so remember to talk to your kids and teach them to ski safely!