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Is Skiing Safe for Our Families?

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Yes, say leading safety advocates ... as long as you take precautions.

natasha richardson and skiing

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.

Click here for more tips on skiing safety.

And concerned about other sports? Check out the dangers of contact sports.

Our thoughts continue to be with Natasha Richardson and her family in this difficult time.

Do you think skiing is safe for your family?

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Linda March 17, 2009, 7:08 PM

Yes, I would say skiing and snowboarding are dangerous because you’re traveling pretty fast down a hill, even on the beginner slopes. I’ve told some first-time friends/relatives to get a helmet, but they just laughed it off. They never got hurt, but still, you’re going pretty fast. Why not get a helmet for your own sake? I have one for snowboarding and I feel a lot better.

Boarder March 17, 2009, 7:21 PM

I always wear a helmet. I’m an advanced snowboarder, and rarely fall, but what about the beginner who insists on going on an advanced slope and can’t control himself and crashes into me? I look at it as protection from idiots.

lifes2shorttobescared March 17, 2009, 7:51 PM

Come on, there are no guarantees in life. I can’t believe this overreaction toward skiing and snowboarding.

When it’s your time to go, it can happen anywhere. Just look at the case of Dave Freeman, the daredevil travel expert who wrote the book “1000 things to do before you Die.” Know how he died last year at the age of 47? Falling down the steps in his OWN HOUSE!

Jim March 17, 2009, 8:19 PM

Nice. The woman’s body isn’t even cold yet, but at least you’re getting hits on your dopey website…

deaddrift March 18, 2009, 12:03 AM

I’m pretty sure we should outlaw living… after all, it always ends in DEATH.

When will somebody think of the children?!

Gail Cooke March 18, 2009, 1:36 AM

Ok, seriously. Yes skiing is dangerous (which is why I don’t do it) but I could walk out the door and get hit by a bus. So at the end of the day, the only way that you’re going to be “safe” is to sit in a room and not do anything…and if you do that…then you will probably end up in a room with padded walls…which would make you even more safe…right?

fake ear March 18, 2009, 7:18 PM

Skiing is fun. And you may quote me on that.

Zeotmtox June 23, 2009, 4:24 PM

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