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    January 2019

    Skiing and Snowboarding Safety

    skier with helmet on mountain

    During the winter season, many institutions sponsor student skiing and snowboarding activities, whether as recreation or a course. These sports pose many risks that novices may not fully appreciate, and more experienced skiers and riders may disregard. The following practices can help ensure the safety of all participants:

    • Trip leaders. Require all trips to include at least two experienced leaders. Events involving minors also should follow standard chaperone ratios. The leaders should know whom at the institution to contact in an emergency. Station one leader in an accessible location near the slopes to receive students in need of assistance. Instruct leaders to acquaint themselves with resort personnel and emergency procedures.
    • Orientation. Require participants to attend a pre-activity orientation led by the trip leaders that addresses:
      • Basic ski and snowboarding safety information, including the use of lifts, the potential for falls and injuries, and associated risks such as concussions. Advise students to review their insurance coverage relative to skiing or snowboarding.
      • An emergency action plan.
      • The buddy system. Require students to choose a buddy at a similar skill level. Instruct buddies to stay together on the slope and to report a lost partner or injury to a trip leader.
      • Proper snow apparel and protective equipment including gloves, hats, goggles, and helmets that are properly sized for the individual. Require the use of helmets for all skiers and snowboarders. Advise participants to wear identifiable clothing or markers.
      • Emergency information cards for participants to carry containing the trip leaders’ and institution’s emergency contact information. Leave space for students to fill in personal details such as relevant medical information.
      • Trip logistics. Provide all information about transportation and meals, including departure and return times so that no students are left behind. Brief students on weather contingency plans, if any.
      • School rules. Remind students that all school rules remain in effect during the trip. In addition, prohibit the use of alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drugs during the trip.
    • Skills and Supervision. Participants should be asked to disclose their skill level, which may be confirmed by the observations of the trip leader or instructor. Beginners should receive instruction and supervision, and all skiers and snowboarders should be given the opportunity to attend a preliminary lesson offered by a qualified instructor.

    In addition to these safety practices, schools and colleges that sponsor trips should use an assumption of risk form drafted or approved by legal counsel and require that it be signed by all participants, and a parent or guardian if the participant is a minor. The form should acknowledge that skiing is inherently dangerous and require the participant to abide by all safety rules.

    If participants are permitted to use their own ski or snowboard equipment, the assumption of risk form should include a clause that releases the institution from equipment-related liability. Finally, the sponsoring organization should maintain a list of completed forms to ensure all are accounted for prior to the activity.

    See UE’s "Checklist for Effective Releases" for recommendations on drafting an assumption of risk form.

    Resources

    Centers for Disease Control Ski Helmet Fact Sheet

    National Ski Areas Association Helmet Usage and Safety Fact Sheet


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