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Safety Tips - first time taking kids out west - OR - Am I an over-thinking safety weenie?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Will be heading out to Colorado to ski Winter Park and Steamboat in a bit over a week. My wife and I have been to both mountains twice (the last two years) as a parent's getaway week. But this time we're taking our two daughters, 13 and 15.

Safety concerns tend to fall on my shoulders - whether we're skiing, biking, or kayaking - I guess because 1) I'm dad, 2) I'm the stronger skier (or rider or paddler), and 3) I tend to immerse myself more in a sport or activity so become more aware of all aspects of it than do any of the girls (wife included).

I'd call the girls all strong intermediate skiers. The kids are starting to out-ski mom, although Mom has better skills but tends to doubt herself and get scared when things get steep.

Examples - at Winter Park my wife loves all t he stuff off of Parry's Peek, could comfortably negotiate and enjoy Gambler and Aces and Eights, had a lot of fun in the trees -- I think between Sleeper and Riflesight last year (with 10 - 12" of new snow)...but bumps challenge her, so when we hig Drunken Frenchman she kidn of froze up and struggled. At Steamboat examples of her favorites (at the top of her skill level) would be The Ridge, Triangle 3, Shadows...but only if conditions are nice and soft.

Anyway - as our trip approaches I've been thinking about how to maximize safety for the girls, especially while in the trees. I guess my biggest fear is tree wells. Skiing our small hill at home the kids tend to blast ahead (even in the woods), and I wait for my wife who skis more cautiously. I want to talk to t he kids about the need to stay together, about keeping each other in sight especially when skiiing in certain types of treed areas. Don't wnat to scare them so they won't go into the woods, but I do want to make sure they know that skiing off on their own isn't acceptable.

So my thought is that my wife, as probably the slowest, should lead - then the kids, and I sweep. I'm the one who really needs to watch everyone anyway. It might not be ideal in terms of skiing speed and flow, but I think it's the best option.

Any thoughts, input, or tips are welcome. As the title says, maybe I'm being a safety weenie, but I'd much prefer to think it out ahead of time and be comfortable with our plan, than wing it and have something go wrong. If I've thought it through and everyone knows how we'll ski and stay together as a group, t hen I wo'nt have to be playing nanny on the mountain.

Also - whistles - any use? I have four of those orange safety whistles...have had them for several years - got t hem for hiking in the Adirondacks when the kids were smaller but never really used them.

I know the kids will have a blast even if we don't ski in the trees - they've been to Stowe and Jay Peak, but besides that have mostly skied our little central NY hill (Greek Peak).
post #2 of 21

Whistles are a good idea. The universal distress signal is three--with a whistle three blasts, wait, repeat. Don't expect to be heard if you're at the bottom of a treewell. Treewells are not a constant threat but come into play when there's been fresh snow fairly recently. Check with patrol when you get there to see if treewells are an issue. If they are I'd agree with your plan for the trees because I'm not sure a 13 year old girl would be able to get her sister out of a well. I think it would be ok to let the girls go first as long as they stay together and stay in sight--maybe a whistle from you if you can't see them and they stop. I wouldn't recommend skiing trees tighter or steeper than everyone can handle easily if tree wells are in play--most people who wind up in wells have fallen head first, so best not to fall. If tree wells are not an issue or if you can trust them to stay out of the trees I would have no problem letting the girls ski on their own, but I know other people are more cautious than I am.  

post #3 of 21

As a parent, I'm glad to hear you're concerned with safety.  First, I know there's some debate on the whether helmets are really saving people, but in my mind there is no debate -- I insist everyone in my family and my close friends I ski with all wear helmets.  They might not be absolute protection in catastrophic impacts to the head, but they do protect from a lot of scrapes, bumps, and potential concussions.   Second, I always bracket my kids with a lead parent and a "sweeper" parent just as you suggested.  It's second nature to us now, so we do instinctively.  Third, I always reiterate the Skier's Code, and it's expected that if one of us doesn't clear up hill, slow down before approaching a rise, etc., that someone else in the family brings it up at our next stop.  Finally, don't do anything that makes anyone in your group really uncomfortable.  Try to slowly delve into tougher terrain, steeps, trees, etc. by taking little nibbles at them to gain confidence and understanding.  That's better than someone having a bad experience and have to rebuild their confidence before trying it again.  It is supposed to be fun.

 

Tree wells don't seem to be a major concern where I ski in Utah, and if you ski through deciduous trees in CO without the foliage of evergreens to block the snow and create tree wells, then you mitigate your risk.  Plus, it's easier to learn in more open aspen groves where everyone can see one another, what's coming up, and the snow coverage is more consistent. 

 

Be safe, have fun.

 

T. - www.wasatchreport.com

post #4 of 21

My son (14) now skis regularly with his friends.

 

We all know the mountain very well. However, this is what I require/tell him and his friends every time we go:

 

1. Always ski as a group. Everyone should be in site of the front and back of the group.

2. The group should ski the same line. If skiing in the trees, don't get too close to the trees.

3. Take stock of the group halfway down and at the lift. Make sure everyone is accounted for.

4. On powder days, we wear beacons.

5. On powder days, he takes his avalung pack

 

If he does the above, he can go without me tagging along.

Nothing is foolproof, but if you make a point to look out for each other, you won't have a problem.

post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cbgarrett View Post

My son (14) now skis regularly with his friends.

We all know the mountain very well. However, this is what I require/tell him and his friends every time we go:

1. Always ski as a group. Everyone should be in site of the front and back of the group.
2. The group should ski the same line. If skiing in the trees, don't get too close to the trees.
3. Take stock of the group halfway down and at the lift. Make sure everyone is accounted for.
4. On powder days, we wear beacons.
5. On powder days, he takes his avalung pack

If he does the above, he can go without me tagging along.
Nothing is foolproof, but if you make a point to look out for each other, you won't have a problem.

If you're going to the trouble carrying a beacon and avalung, please get a shovel a probe as well and see that his friends have the same. The wait for patrol or someone who can dig you out can kill you.

To the OP, whistles are great.
post #6 of 21

Whistles are a great idea.  We've also got some old Motorola walkie talkies that we use when the cell reception is lousy.  They seem to work well as long as we're within a reasonable distance.  They also have a button that makes a distress sound if someone is in trouble. 

 

My wife sounds a lot like yours.  We always make her go first.  Give her a little time to get ahead and then take off.  

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post


If you're going to the trouble carrying a beacon and avalung, please get a shovel a probe as well and see that his friends have the same. The wait for patrol or someone who can dig you out can kill you.

To the OP, whistles are great.


I get what you are saying, but we are not in the backcountry where the risk is avalanches. I'm more concerned about tree wells. I feel like us having beacons would help in that situation. On big powder days, we typically ski close together in the trees.

 

Seems like overkill to bring the whole safety kit to the resort, but I do see people doing it.

 

And I agree on the whistles. Many packs have them built in to the chest strap now.

post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cbgarrett View Post
 


I get what you are saying, but we are not in the backcountry where the risk is avalanches. I'm more concerned about tree wells. I feel like us having beacons would help in that situation. On big powder days, we typically ski close together in the trees.

 

Seems like overkill to bring the whole safety kit to the resort, but I do see people doing it.

 

And I agree on the whistles. Many packs have them built in to the chest strap now.

 

I've seen tree wells where a shovel would be a very useful tool if someone was trapped.

post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input. I'll plan to bring the whistles, and also use the approach of having my wife go first and me sweeping. Not sure the kids jackets have attachment points for the whistles but I'll figure something out. Having it in pocket will be better than not having it I suppose.

We all wear helmets - so nothing to debate there wink.gif

Really appreciate the comments. Having input helps put me at ease that I'm not overlooking something or doing something completely stupid.

I will chat with patrol about conditions and tree well potential - especially if there is a lotof snow leading up to our arrival.

One of the areas that concerns me the most is the morningside area at Steamboat. I guess because it seems so innocuous - almost flat after the first pitch off the lift. But it's easy to lose track of someone in those pines,a nd the flattish terrain seems like it would be easy for tree wells to form.
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmr40 View Post
 

 

I've seen tree wells where a shovel would be a very useful tool if someone was trapped.


Definitely something to consider. Treewells can be very deep.

 

Best thing is to avoid skiing right next to them.

post #11 of 21

When I ski with my family, one adult leads and one is in the tail.  Typically this ends up with me in the tail helping out the kids as they crash.  We always keep cliff bars in our pockets incase someone gets hungry.  My wife also always has hand warmers as well.  We haven't had the need for walkie-talkies yet but I've seen some people do that since cell reception is not always great in the mountains.

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by billyymc View Post

Thanks for the input. I'll plan to bring the whistles, and also use the approach of having my wife go first and me sweeping. Not sure the kids jackets have attachment points for the whistles but I'll figure something out. Having it in pocket will be better than not having it I suppose.

 

May I suggest Shoestrings for the whistles.  They can also be used as powder cords.

post #13 of 21

Get the patrol number and put it on your cell phones if you have them and there is good reception. +1 on whistles also

post #14 of 21

Have some chains for your vehicle if you don't have dedicated snow tires and AWD.... or be prepared to purchase some.  There will be places along I-70 that sell them where you can pull off and get some if it starts getting sketchy.  I've done a lot of winter driving without needing them but it can dump a lot in a very short time there.  Bought some the first time I visited there and didn't regret it.

post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the great input, very much appreciated.

 

Going to find the whistles in the camp kit this weekend and tie them on shoestrings - didn't even think of something like that…doh!  Also did not think of the patroller's phone - will do.

 

Not sure about the walkie talkies - only have two, and haven't had much luck with them in the past but might bring them anyway.

 

As for getting there - renting a standard SUV - doubt it has dedicated snows. We get a great deal through my employer on that size car in Colorado.  Will watch the weather and be prepared to chain up if needed. Been up through Berthoud pass both in day and night (as well as Rabbit Ears) - so I know it can get bad up there.

post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
 

Thanks for all the great input, very much appreciated.

 

Going to find the whistles in the camp kit this weekend and tie them on shoestrings - didn't even think of something like that…doh!  Also did not think of the patroller's phone - will do.

 

Not sure about the walkie talkies - only have two, and haven't had much luck with them in the past but might bring them anyway.

 

As for getting there - renting a standard SUV - doubt it has dedicated snows. We get a great deal through my employer on that size car in Colorado.  Will watch the weather and be prepared to chain up if needed. Been up through Berthoud pass both in day and night (as well as Rabbit Ears) - so I know it can get bad up there.

I don't know about Colorado but in 37 years of driving the Tahoe Sierra in a 4WD/AWD I have never needed chains. I did finally get nonstudded snows 3 falls ago, which is what started the great California snow drought.  

post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cbgarrett View Post
 


I get what you are saying, but we are not in the backcountry where the risk is avalanches. I'm more concerned about tree wells. I feel like us having beacons would help in that situation. On big powder days, we typically ski close together in the trees.

 

Seems like overkill to bring the whole safety kit to the resort, but I do see people doing it.

 

And I agree on the whistles. Many packs have them built in to the chest strap now.

 

You might rethink the no shovel in tree well territory.

For your viewing pleasure:

 

post #18 of 21

Scary stuff.  He was sure in there for what seemed like a long time.  It looks like he had an avalung.  

post #19 of 21
You say the kids are intermediates so all the back country gear may be a bit over kill as you most likely will not be on the slopes that are of issue. IMOP, wear helmets, carry whistle, ski in a group, be aware of your surroundings and people around you, and look out for each other.
There is also a balance between over confidence and fear, over confidence happens in kids a lot and makes them do dumb things, fear makes you hold back and not flow with the mountain, both can get you hurt. I feel one of the best ways to not get hurt is to learn good ski technique, like taking lessons, this helps with control and give you the confidence to free flow and not choke up. When people choke up and hold back they often sit back on their skis and hold off on making turns, this can get you hurt just as reckless skiing can.
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmr40 View Post

Scary stuff.  He was sure in there for what seemed like a long time.  It looks like he had an avalung.  

I don't believe he did. Not posted to make anyone paranoid, just more aware. IMHO, there never a time to carry JUST a beacon. Kids in trees, play 'Marco polo'.
post #21 of 21

Here's a thought,

 

On the first day have the girls take a group lesson. That way they benefit from the lesson, learn which runs they can handle under the supervision of a professional and let's you and wife go off on your own

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