Steamboat Springs South Routt Elementary School physical education teacher Artie Weber said Wednesday morning’s slope safety presentation from Steamboat Ski Patrol came at an ideal time.
The school’s ski program for third- through fifth-graders starts next week, he said. The students will go to Steamboat Ski Area on five consecutive Wednesdays.
Weber said that in the past — this is the 10th year Ski Patrol has given safety presentations in Routt County schools — it usually has taken place before the school’s first excursion on the mountain.
“It’s just been really beneficial, even for the kids not in the program,” he said.
Even though the kindergartners through second-graders are too young to participate in the school’s ski program, each grade level hears the safety presentation. Weber said it’s important to start that education early.
Ski Patrol member Scott Halliday said by reaching children at young ages, they start from the ground up with instruction in slope safety and etiquette.
“The sooner we can get them knowing, the better off for everyone, especially our visiting folks,” he said.
Wednesday’s presentation was the first this season for Ski Patrol, which will visit seven more schools in the next two weeks. Halliday and fellow patroller Michele Baxter, who started the slope safety presentations 10 years ago, gave them to two groups, kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade.
The presentations include a video in which costumed characters demonstrate the aspects of the Skier’s Safety Code. Baxter said the characters help keep the children engaged.
She said children lose interest if Ski Patrol members just lecture about slope safety but that they pay attention to something fun.
After the video, Baxter asked the children in kindergarten through second grade the first rule of the skier’s safety code. Hands shot straight up into the air.
Baxter was given several answers, but she was looking for one thing in particular and eventually got it.
“Always stay in control,” one student said.
Other rules include yielding the right-of-way to people in front of you, not stopping where you could obstruct a trail or are not visible to others, looking uphill and yielding to others when starting downhill or merging onto a trail, using devices to prevent runaway equipment, observing and obeying posted signs and warnings, and knowing how to use a lift before riding one.
In addition to asking the students questions about the video, Baxter and Halliday provided more safety information, such as the importance of wearing a helmet and proper clothing and what to do if they or a friend get stuck in deep powder or a tree well.
Then Baxter gave the students instructions for the annual coloring contest, which includes a safety message. Three winners will be chosen from each school and awarded small prizes. An overall winner also will be selected and awarded a season pass for next season.
Afterward, second-grader Trae Cruson, a skier, said he learned that when he passes a snowboard, he should ski in front of the person so he or she can see him.
Morgan Geiger, another second-grader who skis but plans to try snowboarding this year, said she learned that going onto a closed trail could result in a season pass getting taken away. Morgan said she also learned how to get a lift attendant’s attention if she needed the lift to slow down.
“You put your thumb down,” she said. “I thought you just yelled. But you’d have to have a pretty loud voice to do that.”
Ski Patrol is scheduled to speak with students at North Routt Community Charter School today, Strawberry Park Elementary School on Tuesday, Soda Creek Elementary School on Wednesday, Christian Heritage School on Jan. 21, Hayden Valley Elementary School on Jan. 22 and Lowell Whiteman Primary School on Jan. 25. Patrollers also will speak with a group of home-schooled students.
Baxter said she also hopes to schedule safety presentations with Steamboat Springs middle and high schools and with Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus.