Temperatures are dropping and first snow is coating the mountains of Tongariro National Park. All keen skiers and boarders will be starting to think about the ski season. Long term forecasts are encouraging. Now is the time to prepare for the snow.
If you haven’t already checked out your skis, board or other equipment now is the time.
Get out the skis and check carefully over the bases and edges. It’s a good idea to start the season with carefully sharpened edges and good wax on the base. If you are not confident of maintaining your own ski equipment, take the skis in to your nearest ski shop and get professional maintenance before the season starts.
With many days’ use there is a tendency for ski bases to become concave, check for concavity by putting a straight edge across the base, if you can see light underneath the straight edge then those skis may need a base grind.
The mountains are potentially dangerous places where we are often exposed to extreme weather events with wind and cold temperatures. Ice can be a hazard at times.
Poor visibility in low light or fog conditions is also a major hazard on many local ski fields. And underneath it all is the mountainous terrain with cliffs, rocks, chutes and other major traps.
Having your snow-riding equipment in good condition is the first step to riding safely. New Zealand has variable weather throughout the winter and all our fields have variable snow conditions. That means you must be ready for ice, wet snow, powder and crud.
When we talk about skiing or boarding injuries we’re usually thinking of knee strains or knee ligament tears, and leg or arm fractures.
Unfortunately far worse can happen! Every year riders are seriously injured and killed falling over cliffs or bluffs.
Serious head injuries can occur whenever falling, particularly if you strike a rock.
Well-maintained skis or boards with sharp edges will help keep you safe on ice. But there’s more to it; learn your mountain, know where you are at all times and be especially careful when visibility is poor.
What about your other equipment? Are your jacket and trousers still warm and windproof? Are you well equipped with warm underwear and mid layers?
Don’t forget to check your helmet. If you don’t wear a helmet think about the extra protection it can give you.
Hi-tech foams in the new helmets give more impact protection than those of a few years ago, take a look around at the new gear and replace that old helmet.
If you’re interested in going off piste or ski touring you have more gear to get ready: emergency pack, shovel, avalanche probe and avalanche transceivers. Now is the time to check all this equipment, replace batteries etc. Crampons and ice axe will be other accessories you might need. Don’t forget a torch, maybe one with a red flashing light. A whistle is also recommended emergency equipment, it should be easily accessible on your jacket.
Know how to intelligently read the weather forecast and the local weather. If you are going outside skifield boundaries know the local avalanche advisory, there are reports available online www.avalanche.net.nz and there should also be avalanche risk indicators clearly visible on your skifield.
Learn more about avalanches on line at www.avalanche.net.nz
Do you know how to recognize and treat hypothermia (exposure)? Remember that children are far more at risk of hypothermia than adults. Adults with small or petite frames generally have less resistance to hypothermia than larger people.
Always take some food in your pack or hidden in your jacket. Quick energy from chocolate or glucose helps ward off hypothermia.
Remember the Snow Responsibility Code (see illustration) and have some awesome fun on your own snow beach.
The Snow Responsibility Code:
- Stay in control at all times
Know your ability, start easy, be able to stop and avoid other people. Losing control is the number one cause of falls.
- People below you have the right of way
The skier or boarder downhill of you has the right of way. Don’t forget to look above before entering a trail.
- Obey all ski area signage
Signs are there for your safety. Keep out of closed areas.
- Look before you leap
Scope out jumps first. Ensure the area is clear of others and use a spotter on blind jumps.
- Stop where you can be seen
When stopping, try to move to the side of the trail and make sure you can be seen from above.
- Don’t lose what you use
Equipment must be secured while walking or stashing. This goes for rubbish too! Remember to take all your waste with you so it doesn’t become a hazard for others (or the environment).
- Stay on scene
If you are involved in or witness an accident, remain at the scene and identify yourself to the ski patrol.
- Respect gets respect
Right from the lift line, to the slopes, and through the car park – treat others as you would want to be treated.