By Kristen Lummis, braveskimom.com
This summer, Jake Ziemski, an avalanche technician at Arapahoe Basin, was chosen as the Colorado Ski Country USA “Patroller of the Year.”
With this honor, Jake becomes the seventh A-Basin patroller to receive this award. He joins Ryan Evanczyk, currently the snow safety director, Patrick O’Sullivan, the resort’s risk manager, Rebecca Hodgetts, Tnoy Cammarata, the A Basin ski patrol director, Kelly Deeter and Leif Borgeson.
Clearly, A-Basin has a long and strong tradition of on-mountain safety.
Parents are often concerned about safety when their kids start skiing. Even if they ski or ride themselves, it’s easy to imagine accidents happening. The same is true for biking, football, and even ballet. It’s easy to let your imagination run wild.
Luckily, it’s also easy to prevent most accidents and mishaps. Here are some safety tips from Jake Ziemski, the Colorado Patroller of the Year.
These tips are for everyone, not just parents and not just kids, They are good advice for anyone out in the mountains enjoying a ski day.
The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have been telling us to be prepared for years and when I asked Jake what is the single most important thing to do to stay safe on snow, he too, emphasized preparedness.
Here’s our interview.
1) What do you think the most important thing skiers and snowboarders can do to stay safe?
Be prepared. Make sure everyone has the proper gear. Make sure your skis or board and bindings work properly. Next, wear a helmet and goggles. This is one of the most important things you can do.
Be prepared for all the elements. Some days may be sunny and you’ll need sunscreen. Others may be blowing or snowing. You need to be ready to deal with inclement weather.
The biggest mistake you can make is to cut a rope and go into closed terrain. Speaking from our standpoint at Arapahoe Basin, we have lots of closed avalanche terrain adjacent to our open terrain.
This terrain is closed for a reason. It is never closed because we “want to keep it for ourselves” as people sometimes suspect. Our goal on ski patrol is always to get the whole mountain open and get it open safely. We want to enjoy the mountain just like everyone else, with everyone else.
In addition to putting yourself in danger, skiing or riding closed terrain can get you a $1,000 fine from the state. Plus, closed terrain is not swept at the end of the day. If you get hurt in closed terrain, you’ll be on your own for a while. We may not know you’re in there.
3) Please explain what ski patrol does to ensure guest safety.
Trail maintenance is the number one thing we do to prevent injuries. Every day, we check the slopes to ensure that they are safe. This includes avalanche work.
We also help people get around the mountain. We are happy to help skiers and snowboarders find the terrain that’s right for them. Just ask us any questions and we’ll help.
Training is very important and we are constantly preparing for everything from lift evacuation to treating all sorts of injuries. This includes being skilled and up-to-date on the latest and greatest in outdoor emergency care.
We are here to help you if you get hurt.
4) What safety tips do you have for parents?
Stick together and don’t ski or ride alone. If your children are old enough and skilled enough to ski or ride on their own, communicate with one another. Plan where you’ll meet at what time. Share your intentions. Ask each other, “Where will you be skiing?” Make a plan in case someone gets lost. Look out for one another.
Also, parents need to be aware of their child’s limits. Go home every day after an enjoyable experience. Don’t push your child to be the next Lindsey [Vonn] or Bode [Miller]. The goal is for your child to build their skills and learn to love the mountain.
5) Arapahoe Basin is your home mountain. Do you have any tips for skiing or riding there?
Just come up and check it out. A Basin is a pretty unique place for the state of Colorado. With the summit at 13,050 feet, it is true Rocky Mountain skiing. One-half to three-quarters of the resort is above tree line, which makes it pretty unique in North America.