British Columbia is home to 13 major ski resorts with unparalleled terrain and awe-inspiring views of the diverse landscape of our province.
This year, with travel restrictions in place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many locals are interested in trying new outdoor activities close to home. As a result, we’ll likely see more first-time skiers and snowboarders on the slopes with fewer tourist visitors.
While the ski season looks and feels different this year, one thing remains the same: the need to put safety first. Here in BC, 60% of chairlift–related accidents occur because passengers aren’t behaving safely.
There has never been a better time to pursue winter sports conscientiously and with caution, keeping in mind the following steps to navigating the local mountains.
Peek at the weather conditions
To make the most of a day on the slopes, check out the weather conditions on the ski resort’s website ahead of time. Take a peek at the live snow cameras to see how much (if any) snow has fallen in the previous 24 hours to get an idea of what you can expect.
Check health and safety guidelines
Mountain protocols may differ depending on the resort you visit. This could involve having to reserve your ski day in advance, wearing a face mask or covering at all times on the mountain, and taking the chairlift with those you arrived with. Be sure to check the ski resort’s website and consult Western Canada’s Alpine Responsibility Code.
Bring a ski buddy
Ample mountainous terrain can make it easy to get lost if you’re flying solo (especially during a whiteout). To stay on the right track and get help when you need it, make sure to spend your time on the mountain with a buddy. You could arrange to meet each other at the bunny hill for a practice session and venture out together from there.
Be prepared before boarding the chairlift
Being unaware of best practices around using the chairlift can have serious consequences for you and those around you. When loading, always remove your pole straps and point your ski tips down and forward. Move up to the marked line and watch out for the approaching lift. If you have a backpack, place it on your lap or the seat beside you to avoid it catching on the lift. And if you fall (it happens), make sure you stay down until the operator instructs you to get up.
Ride the chairlift safely
Riding a chairlift up to pristine ski runs involves travelling high above the base of the mountain. That’s why it’s advisable to lower the bar (if the lift has one) and don’t forget to let other riders know before you do. Sit back as far as possible so that you’re fully supported by the chair. Do not (!) swing or bounce on the chair, lean forward or adjust your boots, skis, or snowboard, or touch trees or towers alongside the lift. Pro tip: keep an eye out for all warning and instruction signs around you.
Get off the chairlift carefully
A smooth transition from the chairlift to the unload area and your desired ski run is important. Before you unload, make sure there’s nothing caught on the chair, and always wait until you see the “raise the bar” sign to lift the bar. Keep the tips of your skis or snowboard up as you unload, slide down the ramp, and clear the unload area. If you leave something behind, clear the unload point before letting the lift operator know.
Stay on the chair if you don’t manage to unload — the operator or safety gate will stop the lift. The operator will then assist you in unloading from the chairlift.
Consider the differences for T-bars
It’s important to remember that safety on the ski hill doesn’t end with chairlifts. There are more considerations for T-bars and conveyors, which can be found at a multitude of resorts. When riding T-bars, look to the inside for the bar and stay standing for the entire ride. Remember to stay on the track, and if you fall, clear the area immediately. On either loading conveyors or T-bars, unload only at the designated area — don’t get off before you see the “unload here” sign.
Embrace winter safely and enjoy everything our local mountain resorts have to offer this season. For more information and chairlift safety tips before you visit, head to technicalsafetybc.ca.