Prepping for the Slopes
Know the weather forecast and be prepared for it. For example, if it’s gonna rain, you’re gonna get wet, so make sure you have raingear, goggles, an extra pair of gloves, and an extra hat. If it’s supposed to get much colder in the afternoon, make sure you bring extra gear to grab at lunchtime. If you walk out of the cabin wearing your ski boots or snowboard boots, make sure you are also carrying your regular boots to change into when your done skiing or boarding (critical if you’re using rental gear that has to be returned at the end of the day). You are given lots of freedom on these trips – but that freedom requires personal responsibility.
You should carry certain items on you: Money – Bring between 10 and 15 dollars for lunch; do NOT carry your wallet, just carry cash. “Scout ID” – This is a 3 x 5 card that lists your name, your home phone, “Troop 111”, and “Page So-and-So” (the names of the trip organizer and lodge sitting adults). This card should be carried in an outside pocket where it will be easily found by the Ski Patrol if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate with them, and somehow you lost your buddy. Food – On most trips, the Troop will give you a couple of Snickers bars or Granola bars (or equivalent) for carrying; these are an excellent energy boost if you are getting really cold or fatigued, and are a long way from a lodge. Water – On most trips, the Troop will also give you a small bottle of drinking water for carrying; this will help you keep hydrated – dehydration is probably the leading cause of feeling cold, fatigued, or light-headed. This bottle should be refilled every time you go into a lodge. Extra clothing – A few small and light items: Hats or headbands, a second pair of gloves or glove liners, facemasks, sunglasses, etc., can help you stay warm if you get chilled and you’re a long way from the lodge or vans. Meds – Medicated lip balm is always a good idea. If you’re skiing for multiple days in bright, sunny conditions, a small tube of sun-tan lotion will help prevent sunburn and windburn (probably only needed by very fair-skinned Scouts). Hand-warmers – If your hands are really susceptible to cold, carry two of those chemical hand-warmer packs (one for each glove; do NOT use inside your boots, they will burn your skin). If you prefer, you can carry all these items in a fanny-pack or a small daypack, but it’s preferable to keep them in your jacket pockets if possible.
You should NOT carry certain items on you: Keys – if you’re not a driver, DON’T carry your keys; you don’t need them, they’re too easy to lose, and they can injure you if you fall on them hard. If you’re a driver, just carry the vehicle keys – don’t carry your entire key set; this minimizes the impact if you lose them. Wallet – again, just carry cash and your Scout ID; you don’t need your wallet, and it’s too easy to lose if you’re in and out of your pockets all day long. Walkmans – It is illegal to wear Walkman on the slopes at most resorts, and incredibly stupid to wear them on the slopes at any resort – your ability to hear what’s going on around you is a very important safety factor, especially on crowded slopes and even more so where trails cross.
Establishing Buddies – Scouts must always ski with a buddy. Whenever possible, buddies should be organized the night before hitting the slopes, while you have time to think and not just react and end up with whoever’s left over. It is ALWAYS preferable to establish Buddy PAIRS, not triplets or higher. Triplets or higher number groupings almost always end up losing one person, and usually very quickly. This is unacceptable. Buddies should always be established by ABILITY FIRST, and friendship a distant second. Note that ability essentially means equal speed. Friends often have very different skiing abilities, and so therefore one is constantly left behind, or worse is goaded into tackling slopes that they have no business being on – that’s how people get seriously hurt. So be smart in establishing buddy pairs. And remember, you can always trade off on buddies anytime during the course of a day; lunchtime is always a good time to switch buddies (Note: By mutual agreement by all four Scouts – never by the order of one Scout).
Know the Schedule (and Where You Are) – The Troop always has an assembly time and place at the end of each day’s skiing. This is usually established at an “all-hands” assembly the night before we hit the slopes. The schedule usually has a specific Mass or restaurant dinner time built in, so there is no leeway – you have to be on time. In general, if you have your own equipment and are skiing close to the lodge where the Troop vehicles are located, you can get on the lift for the last time about 30 minutes before the assembly. If you need to return rental gear, then you can get on the lift for the last time about 45 minutes before the assembly (you’ll need the extra 15 minutes to return the gear). If you are at a distant slope at a big resort (like Killington, Seven Springs, or Snowshoe), you have to add the time necessary to work your way back to the main lodge. That can easily mean getting going 2 hours in advance, especially if you have to catch a bus or ski down multiple slopes to work your way across an entire resort. Obviously, this means you have to watch the clock, and you have to know where you’re located. Note that virtually every lift hut, both at the top and at the bottom of each slope, has a clock in the window – so there is no excuse for not knowing what time it is. In addition, all resorts have detailed slope maps – make sure you get one before you start skiing, and know where you are; if you can’t figure it out, ask a lift attendant to show you. There is no excuse for not knowing where you are, and where you have to go.
While On the Slopes
Buddy System Enforced – Scouts must ALWAYS ski with a buddy. This means skiing WITHIN EASY SIGHT AND SOUND of your buddy. That could be 100 yards on a mostly-deserted slope on the remote edge of a resort, or 10 yards in heavy fog or on a highly crowded slope. This also means ALL THE TIME – so if one buddy wants to go inside to get warmed up, get something to eat, go to the bathroom, or play video games for the rest of the day, EVERYONE goes inside to get warmed up, get something to eat, go to the bathroom, or play video games for the rest of the day. If three guys go into the glades for some tree skiing, they must have a pre-established reassembly point just below the glades, and three guys MUST come out. Assuming that someone went off on their own – when in fact they’re wrapped around a tree somewhere – is how people die from a minor injury, compounded by concussion and exposure. Always remember, we probably wouldn’t know that someone was missing until the end-of-the-day assembly, and at that point it could be way too late, assuming we could find them at all with darkness coming on. So if four guys decide to tackle a Double Black Diamond slope, four guys need to reassemble at the bottom, without fail. If someone needs to get something from a Troop van, everyone goes. Etc., etc., etc.
Ski Smart – All Scouts want to work their way up to skiing the most challenging slopes. However, virtually every skiing and boarding injury this Troop has experienced over the past 15 years have been to Scouts who were skiing on a slope that was too difficult for their abilities. All Scouts have a responsibility to ski within their limits. If a Scout is constantly falling down, or is running into things or people, he is on too difficult a slope, period. Time to drop back to an easier slope. More accomplished skiers and boarders must resist goading inexperienced Scouts to ski or board slopes that are too difficult for them, or mocking Scouts for skiing easy slopes all day long. If buddy pairs are established based on friendship and not on ability, then the better skier/snowboarder has to ski DOWN to the level of his friend, and not try to get his friend to speed up past his current ability, or to go on slopes where he doesn’t belong.
Safety Equipment – Helmets are recommended for skiers and are very strongly recommended for boarders – but are not mandatory (yet) – this may change at any time. Beginner boarders MUST wear wrist guards until they receive a waiver from the Troop Snowboarding Czar (currently “Danger” Rick W.). To date, of the dozen or so injuries suffered by Scouts over the past 15 years, the most serious have all been incurred by snowboarders. ‘nuf said!
Self-Monitor! – Take time mid-morning and mid-afternoon to eat your snacks and drink your water – that’s why you have them. If you’re cold, hungry, or overly fatigued, GO INSIDE and take a break. Watch yourself, and watch your buddy, Ski Safe, and Be Smart!