Sending down the mountains safely

Overlooking the slopes at Purgatory Resort
Overlooking the slopes at Purgatory Resort(KKCO / KJCT)
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 2:28 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - Every winter, ski resorts across the state slowly begin their opening day in time for another ski and snowboarding season. While many skiers and snowboarders can get excited to hit the slopes, safety is the priority.

When ski resorts open for the season, many are available with narrow trails. When this happens, congestion can occur on the mountain from skiers and snowboarders. “Thinking about how much terrain is open, how many people are skiing with you at a given time, and controlling your speed, those things all go into having a safe day on the hill,” said Dan Rathbun, General Manager at Purgatory Resort.

Rathbun mentions that safety is number one, not just at Purgatory but at any ski resort. When you head down the mountain, you always want to check all your surroundings, not what is in front of you. Rathbun states that it is very similar to driving a car.

One significant safety hazard on a crowded trail can be skiers and snowboarders running into each other, while others can simple falling. Whoever goes on the mountain, you should follow the Skier Safety Act said, Rathbun. The act states the legal rights, responsibilities, and liabilities of ski area operators and skiers who use the facilities.

If an incident does occur in the mountains, this is where ski patrol comes in. Every ski resort has a ski patrol to help assist those with any type of emergency on the mountain. All ski patrollers must be certified with the minimum Outdoor Emergency Care Certification (OEC). Others can have higher level certifications like Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). Rathbun mentions that at Purgatory, they have a team of fifty-five patrollers. Four have the standard (OEC), while the remaining fifty-one have EMT certifications. “So we have one of the most medically well-prepared ski patrols, I would think, in the state of Colorado,” said Rathbun.

Most ski resorts will have maps of where everything is located, including ski patrol headquarters. Therefore, it is essential to continually familiarize yourself with where the ski patrol building is and the phone number in case you need help to reach one of the direct phone lines.