Control key to ski safety

Nothing relieves those pent-up daily pressures like a day on the slopes.

The fresh air, fluffy snow, and that sensation of gliding down the hills revives the soul.

Each year, Michigan welcomes between 2 million and 2.4 million skier visits to the state’s slopes.

Michigan and New York are tied for the most ski areas in any state.

The typical ski season is 100 to 104 days long. Winter travel accounts for nearly 1/3 of the $17.7 billion-a-year Michigan travel industry, reports the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.

Skiing is accessible. No matter where you live in the state, you are within a 2-hour drive of a ski area.

Twenty-eight degrees is the “magic number” for snowmaking.

When the temperatures drop below this mark, you can be sure Michigan ski areas are making snow.

Ten inches of natural snow, when packed, usually adds only one inch of snow to the ski slope’s base while 10 inches of man-made snow adds seven inches of base.

Man-made snow is more dense and durable. For every 10-degree temperature drop, snowmakers can double the output of machine-made snow.

Humidity is a factor as well. The lower the humidity, the better for making snow.

If you add the temperature plus the humidity, that sum should equal less than 100 for favorable snowmaking weather, Michigan Snowsports Industries Association officials said.

While skiing is a great way to get some winter exercise, there are precautions outdoor enthusiasts must take. Serious ski accidents or fatalities can and do happen.

Most are avoidable.

The key to successful skiing is control. To have it, you must be aware of your technique, the terrain you are skiing and the other skiers around you. A conscious state of awareness is mandatory.

Get distracted, go too fast, lose your confidence, forget about where you are or what you’re doing and you’re a recipe for disaster.

You should start your day with two or three warm up runs. It’s far too easy to head directly toward your favorite runs. Common sense, caution and your sense of control can go out the window. You can find yourself going too fast or on a run that is beyond your ability.

This is not only unwise, but potentially dangerous.

Skiers Responsibility Code

– Ski under control and in such a manner that you can stop or avoid other skiers or objects. Excessive speed is dangerous.

– 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.

– When entering or merging onto a trail or starting downhill, yield to others.

– All skiers shall use devices to prevent runaway skis.

– 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.

Tips for Prior to Hitting the Slopes

– Get in shape. Don’t try to ski yourself into shape. You’ll enjoy skiing more if you’re physically fit.

– Obtain proper equipment. Be sure to have your ski or snowboard bindings adjusted correctly at a local ski shop. You can rent good ski or snowboarding equipment at resorts.

– When buying skiwear, look for fabric that is water- and wind-resistant. Look for wind flaps to shield zippers, snug cuffs at wrists and ankles, collars that can be snuggled up to the chin and drawstrings that can be adjusted for comfort and keep wind out. Be sure to buy quality clothing and products.

– Dress in layers. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. For example, dress in polypropylene underwear (top and bottoms), which feels good next to the skin, dries quickly, absorbs sweat and keeps you warm. Wear a turtleneck, sweater and jacket.

– Be prepared. Old Man Winter has a mind of his own. Bring a headband or hat with you to the slopes, 60 percent of heat-loss is through the head. Wear gloves or mittens (mittens are usually better for those susceptible to cold hands).

– Wear sun protection. The sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, even on cloudy days.

– Always wear eye protection. Have sunglasses and goggles with you. Skiing and snowboarding are a lot more fun when you can see.

Tips for while on the Slopes

– Take a lesson. Like anything, you’ll improve the most when you receive some guidance. The best way to become a good skier or snowboarder is to take a lesson from a qualified instructor.

– The key to successful skiing/snowboarding is control. To have it, you must be aware of your technique, the terrain and the skiers/snowboarders around you.

– Be aware of the snow conditions and how they can change. As conditions turn firm, the skiing gets hard and fast. Begin a run slowly.

– Skiing and snowboarding require a mental and physical presence.

– If you find yourself on a slope that exceeds your ability level, always leave your skis/snowboard on and side step down the slope.

– The all-important warm-up run prepares you mentally and physically for the day ahead. Drink plenty of water. Be careful not to become dehydrated.

– Curb alcohol consumption. Skiing and snowboarding do not mix well with alcohol or drugs.

– Know your limits. Learn to ski and snowboard smoothly – and in control.

– Stop before you become fatigued and, most of all, have fun.