By James Smith, 2007.
As Snowsports Instructors our most important priority is to keep our guests and ourselves as safe as possible.
New Zealand is home to some great skiing. This attracts many visitors to kiwi ski areas. There is limited ski area acreage for these visitors to enjoy. This leads to crowded slopes at the busiest times of the ski season. Anyone who has skied or ridden the M1 at Coronet Peak during the July school holidays can attest to this!
The question addressed here is how we can educate our guests to be safer snow users during our teaching. If we can succeed we will make our sport more accessible, less intimidating, as well as making us safer.
The Snowsports Responsibility Code provides a great framework for us as Snowsports Instructors to achieve a safer mountain. We know and apply the code but how can we encourage our guests to? Here are some ideas for how we can incorporate the code into our lessons…
1. Stay in control at all times
Part of what we provide and sell is improved skills for our guests to ski with more control helping them achieve this first point of the code. We can ensure we give clear and direct recommendations as to where they ski after a lesson to ensure they can stay in control when skiing.
Encouraging students to continue to develop their skills is great for business but also important for their safety. If we can teach students to be more dynamic and use ski design more they will not only be able to ski fast but do so with control. To achieve this we need to try and get more people taking level 5 and 6 lessons. This can be best achieved by giving great lessons at these levels.
Focusing on ski performance and giving students the feel of a carving ski will keep them coming back for more. These feelings are a huge part of why enjoy the sport and feel in control when skiing fast as instructors. Lets try to pass these skills on to students, resulting in bigger smiles and safer slopes.
2. People below you have the right of way
Ensuring that we explain this most fundamental of rules when we first venture from the sanctuary of the nursery slope can provide reassurance to guests. We should stress that when we ski as class we should stick to this rule as a class rather than staying in the ‘snake’, come what may.
When skiing with level 4/5/6 skiers we should explain this to our students and stress that we should only ski fast where appropriate, and give those we pass plenty of room. When skiing as a class where people are beginning to get the skis carving across the hill we must ensure the students give each other room.
3. Obey all ski area signage
Obviously this rule is something that should be applied by Instructors at all times. We should also explain the reason for closures especially in avalanche terrain.
4. Look before you leap
Here is a great opportunity when teaching kids classes. Small hits provide great teaching aids for developing balance but we should always spot for the kids and encourage them to do the same. In freestyle lessons all safety aspects must be stressed.
5. Stop where you can be scene
We always obey this when free skiing or teaching. Stressing why we chose to stop in certain spots, especially when we have our students ski ahead of us, is vital. Also, pointing out areas that are near landings of small natural jumps and other hazardous areas is a good idea.
6. Don’t lose what you use
Checking our guests have and use breaks/leashes is vital. Explaining how this equipment works to first timers is necessary. If we see out of control equipment making sure we point out the dangers to the equipments owner is paramount.
7. Stay on scene
Obviously should we witness accidents we will do this. Asking for witnesses from your guest is wise. Also reporting near misses we have and encouraging our guess to do the same to the mountain operations will allow more understanding of the risks that exist on the ski field.
8. Respect gets respect
Ensuring we are professional at all times if we or our clients are involved in a collision is paramount. Trying to encourage our guests to ski or ride defensively is also a great goal. Explaining areas that are great to go out and let it rip and those where prudence is needed is key. Demonstrating this when free skiing is vital for Instructors credibility.
As Snowsports Instructors we apply this code to keep our guests and ourselves safe. However it is the guests that we teach that go on to be the majority of mountain riders. If they can leave our lessons with ideas of how to stay safe as well as ski better it will be to the benefit of all skiers and riders.