Staying safe on the slopes

As the snow begins to fall, people of all ages are hitting the slopes. But what are the best ways to ensure you and your family stay safe and avoid injury?

According to the National Ski Areas Association, during the past 10 years, an average of 40 people have died skiing or snowboarding per year. During the 2009/2010 season, 38 fatalities occurred of of the 59.8 million people that either skied or snowboarded that year. Twenty-five of deaths were skiers and 13 were snowboarders. 19 of those were reported to have been wearing helmets.

There are, on average, about 43 "serious" injuries per year, according to the NSAA. These injuries are described as paralysis, serious head or other serious injuries.

According to the National Safety Council, excessive speed and loss of control are the primary factors associated with snow skiing fatalities.

The Physician and Sports medicine, a study, states that more than three-fourths of ski-related deaths occurred after collisions with stationary objects, such as trees and lift towers. Head injuries were the most common cause of fatality.

The following are rules that all skiers and snowboarding should know and obey, according to the NSC:

-When skiing or snowboarding downhill, give moving skiers and snowboarders below the right of way. You should be able to see them, but they might not see you.

-Stop on the side of a run, well out of the way and in view of other skiers and snowboarders.

-Look both ways and uphill before crossing a trail, merging or starting down the hill.

-Use a safety device to prevent runaway equipment.

-Never ski or snowboard alone.

-Follow all posted signs and rules. Avoid closed trails and out-of-bound areas.