Yes, say leading safety advocates ... as long as you take precautions.
The news of Natasha Richardson's ski accident is yet another reminder of the potential dangers of skiing and snowboarding. Is skiing safe for our families? We talk to a safety advocate about how to minimize the risks.
Dave Byrd, Director of Education and Risk of the National Ski Areas Association, says, "I've heard conflicting reports about whether Natasha Richardson was wearing a helmet or not, but we encourage all skiers to do so."
He says according to a recent NSAA study, 43% of adults wear helmets when they ski. They also found 70% of children under 9 are wearing helmets, and 60% of kids age 10-14 are wearing helmets. "All of this is absent of state or federal laws requiring them," he says.
Troy Hawks, communications manager of NSAA, adds that the risks of being injured in the car on the way to the slopes are greater than your risks of being injured while skiing. He also says bicycling and swimming are statistically more dangerous than skiing.
However, there are definitely risks associated with the sport. Here's what you can do to minimize your risk of injuries on the slopes, according to Hawks and Byrd.
- Always wear a helmet. Every time.
- Take ski lessons. Not only will the instructor teach you and your kids how to ski, they will teach you how to conduct yourself safely on the slopes. (Tragically, Natasha Richardson was injured DURING a lesson, according to reports.)
- Follow the responsibility code. All skiers are encouraged to follow this 7-point code to make sure they are skiing safely and responsibly:
• Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
• People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
• You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
• Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
• Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
• Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
• Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
- Make sure your child knows when to stop skiing. For example, if the clothing layer next to their skin stays wet and they're chilled, if they're injured, have a problem with equipment or even if they're simply worn out. Educate them that it's alright to stop before the end of the day and breaks are fun.