Collision Avoidance
General Safety
Legal Issues
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Collision avoidance

Try to keep your turns smooth, consistent and predictable, and keep your carves on one side of the run so that people can pass you. If you are regular foot, keep your trenches on skier's left side of the run so that skiers will hopefully pass you on your right, where you have more visibility on toe edge. Don't get lazy and traverse across the hill between turns. If you traverse between carves, your trenches will form wider ellipses. Instead, transition right into the next turn before you think you've finished your current turn so that your trenches form perfect half-circles.

If you follow all the above guidelines, people can still crash into you if they jump out of the trees without looking, or merge into your trail without looking, or just plain aren't looking. The National Ski Areas Association has established the Responsibility Code, which all resorts post on signs, trail maps, and brochures. Keep a hardcopy of the resort's responsibility code with you, so that if people run into you from behind and then blame you, refer them to rule #2:

Skier's responsibility code
  1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
  7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

You can also point to your perfect half-circle trenches and say "would you like me to be more consistent that that?" If you need to further articulate the situation, then the appropriate response is:

"That's your problem: that's not my problem. If you are overtaking someone from behind, you have 3 options: Wait 60 seconds for the person to go down the run, time your way around the person, or turn more instead of bombing down the hill. And if you don't like it, you can ask the ski patrol, and they will tell you the same thing, because that's what they told me to tell people like you, and after they are finished explaining it to you, they will pull your pass."

In addition, you should point the person out to the ski patrol, who will have a talk with the individual. Ski patrollers will not think twice about pulling the pass of someone who hits you from behind. Report belligerent offenders - Some resorts have a direct Ski Patrol phone number that you can call on your cell phone. Much like in driving, the rules don't give anyone the right of way - they only spell out when someone should yield. In a shouting match, you should yell "You should have yielded to me!" not "I had the right of way!"

The only exception to rule #2 is rule #3. If you carve over a knoll and run into someone on the slope who was hidden from view beyond a drop-off, it's not your fault.

It can be a bit of a challenge for carvers to observe rule #2. Beginner skiers on advanced slopes will erratically dart from side to side across the slope unpredictably, so passing them on a carve at high speed while maintaining a safe buffer zone is not always possible: you might have to skid past them. You will often have to wait at the top of a run for the crowd to "drain" down the slope, and you need to be prepared to stop on a dime.

Rule #8

It is easy to T-bone skiers/boarders who are overtaking you, since carvers make wide, open turns, travel perpendicular to the fall line at high speed on edge changes, and go slower than most skiers in the direction of the fall line. Skiers are not used to other people carving wide turns, so they don't look out for it. As a result, carvers must take an additional level of care, and follow one more rule:

Rule #8

If you are traversing the slope between turns, or carving inconsistent turns, you must yield to people behind you.

If you are carving consistent half-circles, it means your board is pointed downhill 99% of the time, and it's the skier's responsibility to watch out for you, even if you are carving large-radius turns that consume the entire run. But when traversing between carves or deviating from a consistent pattern, skiers cannot be expected to navigate around you, so you need to be aware of people who are behind you:

If you get hit from behind, ask yourself two questions:

If you answer yes to both questions, you were probably traversing between turns. During a season of carving, you have to accept the likely possibility of getting hit from behind. At the very least, you can expect a few close calls.

How to own a run

Before carving a series of turns down a run, follow these guidelines:

  1. First wait until there are no uphill skiers bombing down the hill.
  2. Enter the run and carve your first turn.
  3. Look over your shoulder as you finish the first turn to make sure there are still no uphill skiers bombing down the hill.

You now own the run. As long as you carve consistent turns without traversing the slope, you have provided more than enough fair warning, because any skiers approaching you from behind will:

  1. Have plenty of time to see you carving, even if the skier pays attention to a very narrow field of view.
  2. See that you are carving at high speed.
  3. See at least two turns of your trench, and realize that you are carving wide, consistent turns.
  4. Be able to predict your line.

Therefore, if a skier still manages to slam into you from behind and cause you to break a tib/fib, you can rest easy, knowing it was not your fault. However, there is one quirk that seems to be programmed into the genetic code of humans:

Make friends with the ski patrol. If you get into a "crash event", they will be more likely to see your side of a story if they have seen you make consistent turns.

Want the whole slope to yourself?
Go night carving.


Carving is relatively safe, since carvers stay close to the snow and don't have far to fall. Unlike most soft snowboard boots, hard boots have lockable lean adjusters or spring-stiffened lean adjusters to prevent the ankle from over-extending. Because of the fixed stance, knee stress and the chance of knee injury is very low. If you have bad knees from ski injuries or reconstructive surgery, switch to carving.

However, there are several potential injury scenarios to keep in mind:

  1. Getting hit from behind: See above.
  2. Ankle injury. Hard boots provide a certain level of protection against ankle injury. However, if you sprang your ankle and it doesn't get better after a week, you should have an x-ray to check for a talus bone fracture. It's the bone that connects the foot to the leg. If you fracture this bone, it can start to die off as a result of obstructed blood flow, a process known as avascular necrosis. Interestingly, there is a run at The Canyons called the "Talus Garden."
  3. Wrist injuries: As a beginner you will be constantly falling on your forearms at all points of a turn, so get used to it. Be sure not to fall onto your wrist, and keep your fingers splayed out so that they don't jam. You also need to keep your hands away from the snow on edge changes to keep your fingers from catching the slope and jamming. You can wear wrist guards, however they can limit finger flexibility and make you more susceptible to jamming and possibly fracturing a finger. A good way to avoid finger jamming is to use gloves, then duct tape the three small fingers together: it basically turns the glove into a trigger finger mitten. The three fingers provide each other with more rigid support to better absorb jamming impact. You are more likely to jam your inside hand when doing a heel side turn, so doing the duct tape modification for that hand might be a good idea.
  4. Auguring the nose: If you put too much weight on the nose when going into a turn, the nose can bury into the slope and fold over, bending it like a hinge. With the nose as a pivot, the snowboard can pearl, launching you into a cartwheel. The first snap that you hear is the nose of the board breaking. In the worst case scenario, it is possible to wind up with a tib/fib break or dislocate your shoulder. To prevent burying the nose:

In those cases where you manage to dislocate your shoulder, there are a few considerations:

Safety Info

Legal issues

Check out for information on legal liability. If you are carving and someone hits you from behind while overtaking you, the person who hit you is at fault, and you are not subject to contributory negligence, even if you were carving huge turns and hogging the entire run. In this case, the person who hit you is liable for damages, which are often covered by homeowner's liability insurance.

However, in California, you cannot win such a collision lawsuit unless you can prove that the person ran into you on purpose with malicious intent - In other words, it is not enough to prove that the other person was negligent: you have to prove that the collision was an assault. This legal doctrine may be overturned in the future, but for now, courts in California hold that skiing/boarding is considered a contact sport that affords no expectation of safety, a standard that also trumps local safety ordinances. Heavenly ski resort has runs on both the California side and the Nevada side - You have greater legal protection on the Nevada runs, which are better for carving anyway. On the other hand, if you are bombing out of control and being a general menace, stick to the California side.

If you are involved in a collision, many states and counties have laws that require you to provide your name and address with the ski patrol before you leave the scene of the accident. Much like an auto accident, do not admit fault. If you really want to sue, it is critical to get the identity of witnesses.

Ambassador = You

You are an ambassador for all snowboarders, not just carvers. Three guidelines constitute a sound foreign policy:

  1. Give floundering novice skiers/snowboarder ample space, and don't use them for gate training practice.
  2. Go out of your way to be friendly, even to people who have a negative bias toward snowboarders. Do not project an "us vs. them" anti-skier attitude.
  3. Stop and offer help to people who need it.

In addition, you are a PR person - consider yourself a spokes model for snowboarding, since everyone will be looking at you and your pretty curves. In fact, resorts often churn out marketing PR that includes photos of carvers laying it down, even though hardly anyone carves. By carving, you are providing free entertainment for everyone else, and that is why resorts should pay carvers to ride. If you are good, you may draw groupies, who will hopefully stay out of your way. The ultimate compliment is if you get the attention of jibber's.

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