Jan. 02, 2013 - Issue #898: Apocalypse Not?
‘Know your level’
Youth safety campaign launches at Snow Valley
You reach the top of the lift, look down and think, "Hell no. I can't do that." Or, if you're really brave and—if we're being honest—kind of stupid, you might think, "Oh yeah! I'm all over this."
And then, being the newb that you are, you fumble, flail and fall, ending up in a pile of gear and awkwardly bent limbs in the middle of the run.
We've all been there, whether we first hit the slopes when we were three years old or 20 years old. We all had to learn sometime.
But, during all of your erratic flailing—the kind only produced by a beginner—was there ever a moment where you thought, "I might just need to head back to a green run, or even the bunny hill for some more practice"?
I can clearly remember that moment in my own life. I was 15 years old and I was sliding down an icy double black diamond run on my face. By the time I came to a stop, I had lost my mitts, polls, skis and toque all over the ski hill. So, I climbed all the way back up to collect my gear, and by the end, I was both furious and exhausted.
I didn't clip back in that day, and the following day I was back on the bunny hill getting my confidence back while I re-learned the basics.
It's that experience—one that I look back on frequently—that taught me to always ski within my abilities. In my day, that was a lesson I had to learn on my own.
But today there is a new campaign called Snow Smart teaching youth to do just that, saving them the frustration and embarrassment of learning it on their own. The pilot campaign launched at five ski hills across Canada—including Edmonton's Snow Valley—on December 27.
The campaign tells kids to "Know your level" and to "Get air, but ski with care."
Valerie Smith, youth programs manager for Parachute Canada, the national charity behind the new safety program, said it's all about teaching kids how to prevent unnecessary injuries.
"We're not telling young people not to take risks. We're not saying don't go over that ski jump. We're not saying don't get some air over that mogul or over that jump. We're saying just be aware of your own level and the variables around you," she says. "The main issues that we're trying to address are excessive speed and collision with people or objects. So, a general loss of control."
The campaign is targeted at children and youth because they have the highest rates of injuries on ski hills in Canada.
According to the Canadian Ski Council, 55 percent of ski hill injuries are sustained by skiers and boarders between the ages of 10 and 19 years of age.
And, most of those injuries are caused by one or more of the three risk factors Snow Smart is trying to address: excessive speed, loss of control and collisions with people or objects.
So, in hopes of putting a stop to those risks, volunteers from Canadian Ski Patrol hit ski hills across the country December 27 to hand out information, talk to skiers and boarders, and to give positive reinforcement to youth practising safe skiing or boarding.
"So instead of ski patrol pulling kids over and talking to them about what a stupid thing they just did, it's about rewarding good behaviour," says Smith of Snow Smart's "Get Caught" initiative.
"So, they're saying, 'Hey, we saw when you were coming down that hill, you looked over your shoulder and you stopped and didn't just come flying out from those trees, and you slowed down when you were coming under the lift line. Good job.'"
Lindsay Toth, youth programs assistant for Parachute, was at Snow Valley for the launch of Snow Smart. In total, she says, ski patrollers talked to and rewarded more than 600 children and youth that day.
The rewards were branded tissue packets and candies that direct youth to the Snow Smart website, where they can learn more about ski hill safety.
For Toth, the most powerful part of the day was talking to parents about their role in mitigating the unnecessary risks their children take.
"I had parents, immigrant parents, who never skied or snowboarded, but they wanted their kids to learn—it's a very Canadian thing—and they said they didn't even know how to have the discussion about ski safety with their kids.
"And they were really shocked when they learned the influence parents have on their child's risk taking," Toth continues, noting that parents have a greater influence than a child's peers when it comes to risky behaviour.
"We also try to address parents in this campaign," says Smith. "We're basically saying to parents that they are a big influence on their kids' risk-taking behaviour and so they need to be aware of their own behaviours on the ski hill.
"So are they ripping down the ski hill not really aware of anyone else and doing that with their children, or are they talking to their children about 'Hey, you know what, you've got to be careful of other children on the ski hill. You've got to be careful of new skiers. You have to be careful of yourself.'"
To keep these messages at the forefront of people's minds, there are posters and chairlift advertising in place at the five participating ski hills.
A second Snow Smart day will take place in March, and in the meantime, Canadians of all ages are encouraged to visit the campaign website to learn how you can impact ski hill safety by entering the Snow Smart video competition. To find the competition rules and guidelines, visit snowsmart.ca.
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