Know The Responsibility Code
A significant part of instructing is setting examples and promoting safety among our guests.
Much of your lessons should be devoted to consistently covering the Skier Responsibility Code. You can find the code on the Trail Map and if you have time, make sure your students know how to use the map. Following this code is required by Oregon law, and infractions can result in lift pass revocation, removal from the premises, fines, and possibly criminal charges. Let’s do our part to getting everyone home and stoked enough to come back up!
Remember that finding safe and experiential opportunities to show examples of each tenet is more memorable than listing it verbatim. Having students use explain in their own words is much more beneficial to their understanding.
If leading a freestyle lesson, SMART Style should be taught in addition, as well as “outside-in”.
The following videos from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) contain important information about these codes:
Click on the following topics for more information on various safety topics:
Safety also includes choosing the appropriate terrain for your lessons. While we may like to ski or ride the bumps, it’s not a good place to take a beginner. As a general rule of thumb, when teaching a new skill, keep the terrain one step lower than what your student is capable of, and only move up in terrain after they successfully demonstrate what they’re learning on the easier terrain.
Some things to keep in mind when it comes to terrain (and found in the PSIA-AASI Teaching Snowsports Manual, page 187):
Aspect – Which slopes get sun earliest in the morning? Which ones stay in the shade? All affect snow conditions and your student’s ability to navigate the slopes.
Elevation – The base of Hood River Meadows Express is 4528ft, the base of Mt. Hood Meadows is 5366ft , the top of Cascade Chair is 7305, and the top of Super Bowl is 9000ft. Snow conditions can change dramatically at each 1k mark. Sticky snow or rain down below and ice or blizzard conditions up top.
Slope Shape – Convex or concave shaped slopes are all over Meadows since we are in fact full of meadows. the benching effect can mean very steep pitches on top to flat runouts through the bottom. Preparing your students for a runout can be just as important as navigating the steeper pitch up top.
Slope Angle – Sometimes the most obvious factor in determining where to take students. Remember that while “old tricks on new terrain or new tricks on old terrain” applies, angle can change on a single slope. Buttercup is the perfect example. Know the tactical options in a tricky spot or if you have an ability split in your group.
Features/Obstacles – Ever changing mountain features in the NW means constantly expecting the unexpected. Some of the most technical terrain at Meadows is based on the features scattered throughout the runs.
Health, Fitness, and Mobility
Basic physical fitness and using proper techniques will help us avoid injury. This ranges from taking a few minutes to warmup before harder runs to avoiding certain areas on the mountain altogether. After all, no one wants to tear their ACL or suffer another season-ending injury. It’s also a major bummer to fill out paperwork at the end of a lesson or explain to a mother why their child got injured.
While we can’t control our guests levels of fitness, part of our original assessment during the introduction and building rapport with our students is gauging their ability to move. Are they flexible? Can they balance? Do they breathe hard after walking up the stairs?
Instructors should always take a moment to stretch briefly with the class and help everyone warmup to get the body moving. You will experience guests who are physically inactive and will struggle with basic movements in the flats. It’s better to find this information “down here” than that “up there”.
Doing this may seem pointless or silly, but your guests are much more likely to have a good time and come back for more lessons.
Daily Safety Updates
Everyday, your management team holds staff meetings for our team. Depending on where you’re scheduled each day, you should attend them. Not only do you need to be in the parking lot to beat the rush and paid to attend, but your supervisors deliver daily safety information covering a wide variety of topics including events on the mountain or snow conditions. It is your responsibility to understand those daily items to keep yourself and your students safe.
Your Labor Rights
If you see or experience something that seems unsafe to you, please notify a supervisor or manager immediately. You may be the first one to notice it, and by reporting it you could prevent one of your coworkers or a guest from becoming injured.
Two different agencies oversee your safety and labor rights in Oregon: The Federal Government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the State Government’s Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI).
The Meadows Learning Center strives to make sure that this is a fun and safe place to work. Our goal is to prevent prevent injuries to our guests as well as our employees. So if something seems amiss, please let us know so we can fix issues before they become problems.
Have you been injured or have a near miss to report?
Chairlifts & Kids
It is very important to understand how to load and unload safely with kids.
They are often not tall enough to get onto the chair properly. They can be distracted when entering the lift terminal, so it’s important that you check for their understanding of loading, sitting, and unloading before even getting in line. It also helps that they know exactly who they’re riding with before entering as well.
Some of the Meadows’ specific rules regarding chairlifts include:
- All kids under 7 years of age need to ride with a capable adult
- Ask adults if they feel comfortable riding with a child; if they consent, ask if they can put the bar down and help them get on
- Have younger children locate themselves closest to Lift Operators so they can help if needed
More info on chairlift safety can be found HERE
Ski & Snowboard Care
Your skis and snowboards are tools! Much like a carpenter or a construction worker, your tools need to be properly taken care of. Not only does it prolong the length of its use, but it can also prevent injuries. Most of us don’t make loads of money so we need our gear to last.
Several factors can play into this. Maintenance can occur seasonally or regularly. Proper fit and sizing is another important aspect. Let’s dive in:
Our maritime snow is very wet and dense. Improper sliding can be a recipe for a disaster on our bodies. Our students may need help as well so it’s suggested to bring rub-on wax, especially if you’re on the Magic Carpet.
Truly a double-edged sword: sharp edges can cut through fabric and skin or they can be so dull they can’t keep an edge on ice. Many park riders keep their edges dull so they don’t grab onto boxes and rails. Racers might be beveling their edges to specific degrees for better performance. Knowing the conditions and the preferred use of your use of the tool is important for success.
Some issues we regularly see with both instructors AND guests:
- Plastic cracking and breaking on older ski boots (Thermoplast)
- Loose screws and improperly fitted replacement pieces
- Broken bindings pieces, edges, tips, etc.
- Missing/broken Boa systems or laces on snowboard boots
- Improper spring release in ski bindings under tension – indemnification
- Broken or bent brakes on skis, broken straps on snowboards
Check your gear regularly! Broken gear is not an excuse to miss work. Tighten screws, especially after changing settings in cold or wet conditions. LockTight is a great way to keep screws from coming undone. Buckle and lace up boots, latch up snowboard bindings. Check the condition of your boot soles. Wear and tear is normal but to a certain extent.
The High Performance Center, in the main lodge at Meadows, has many ways to help you or your guests including giving “Frankenstein” parts to replace missing straps or screws.
For much of the year, the HPC gives instructors access to $25 base grinds and tuning to help you take care of your gear. They also do hot waxes and demos.
Put your gear away. Theft does happen at Mt. Hood Meadows and video/security cannot be relied upon, even in locker rooms or at lineup areas.
Clothing & Attire
All staff members on snow are REQUIRED to wear helmets. That means even while on the chairlift or working around the ballroom carpet. You are encouraged to recommend helmet use with your adult guests. Helmets are required equipment in all children’s lessons.
Ventilation and fit is a key aspect of helmets. Proper fitting can be seen below:
All of our children students are required to wear eye protection like goggles or sunglasses. It is highly recommended that you wear them as well. We often have spares in the Children’s Learning Center (CLC) so ask a supervisor or lead for help.
Sunscreen is also required for all children. The albedo effect that occurs while on snow – higher levels of light reflect off of lighter colored subjects – makes sunburn particularly probable. Sunburn of a child’s skin over two hours on snow can result in third degree burns. Let’s make sure this never happens! Sunscreen is available in the CLC in large white tubs near the door.
Gloves & Mittens
Hand coverings work more than just keeping little digits warm. They are also very important for keeping hands safe. Think about all the sharp objects found around a ski resort, from pinching metal parts of chairlifts to sharp metal edges on skis or snowboards.
It’s very important that our students wear gloves at all times. This is a requirement for children. Even on the warmest spring days at Meadows, kids can be down to a t-shirt, but should ALWAYS have gloves on.
“Cotton kills”. When it gets wet, it will stay wet. And it gets cold. Good for summer if you’re hot, but it’s almost never a good idea to have cotton during the winter.
Layering means wearing multiple layers of clothing, usually starting with thermal long underwear, and progressively getting heavier. These are layers that can be pulled off if you get hot, and put back on if you get cold.
We have the luxury of going inside to remove or add layers when we need them, but if on a trek, it’s important to bring these in a backpack. That said, we should not have backpacks with us in a lesson. It is okay, especially if you’re in the Carpet area, to shed layers and leave them near fencing and out of the way of other people. Just don’t forget the lift ticket! And don’t forget to grab your clothes on your way back inside again.
Loose fitting clothing is good for better movement but loosely dangling clothes are no-go. Scarves, straps, tied up sleeves, long loose hair… Never a good time with moving equipment.
Who would have thought that socks were so important?? Our students should only have one pair of socks on, preferably long (past the boot cuff) and not cotton. Nothing else should be in the boot except that sock, pulled up tightly. Thicker socks are warmer, but also take up more space inside the boot.
Each seam or wrinkle is a stress point against the skin, causing blistering or pinching. Often times, student discomfort in boots comes from this issue. Check the sock first before asking for different sized boots.
Ski and snowboard boots should fit snug. Toes should touch the end of the boot. You can visually show a student what this looks like by mimicking one hand as the foot – fingers are toes that can still wiggle a little – barely touching the other hand. Toes shouldn’t curl but the foot also shouldn’t be able to slide back and forth. This either causes blistering or cramping as the foot tries to hold on.
Boots should be fastened tightly but not cutting off circulation. Inner liners, if available, should be most snug, then fixing the outer shell around it. The tongue of the boot should always be centered inside the inner liner. Some students won’t have this order correctly, and each of the seams will cause pinch points against the skin.
With kids, you might need to check if the buckles have even been closed or the Boa system has been tightened. It’s not uncommon that children’s boots will be on the wrong feet (an indication that the boots are also too big). Many liners come out of the shells and can be fit to the child’s foot where toes can be seen/touched if necessary.
Rental boots are never a perfect fit, but we can still make sure our students are set up for better success. It’s also something to keep in mind if they’re looking to buy their own gear. Cuff length/tightness, heel lift, ankle stiffness, toe-box width, lacing/buckle options, and other variables are all things to explore in boots.