NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Winter sports are just fun and games until someone gets hurt. Our winters are long here in North Dakota, so you almost have to make the most out of it.
Many spend the cold months participating in winter sports, such as snowmobiling. In our state, a rider must be 12 years or older to operate a snowmobile, however safety classes are still required.
“North Dakota Parks and Recreation, they conduct safety classes online. 10- and 11-year-old kids can get certified, they can only ride with their parents. Around 12 years and older, if they don’t have their driver’s license, they need the safety course to ride as well,” said Todd Thronson, the executive director with Snowmobile North Dakota.
The most common mistakes riders make are riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, riding too fast for the conditions, or riding past their own physical ability.
Thronson said that the most important thing for riders to do before they go is to check the weather conditions and let somebody know where they’re going.
“I can’t stress enough that we don’t recommend riding alone. You’re much more likely to be able to get out of a bad situation if you do have somebody with you and someone else who knows the area as well,” said Thronson.
Thronson also says that snowmobilers should try to stay away from riding on thin ice, around cat tails, and double-check before crossing the road.
Even if you don’t have an engine, there are other winter activities that include gliding across the snow.
KX News sat down with Andy Beck, the mountain operations manager at Huff Hills, and Huff Hills ski patrol, Kurt Weinberg to get more tips on how to stay safe when winding down the slopes this winter.
“Part of its dressing right, I think. The base layer that wicks that insulation layer, wind layer, wear a neck gator, wear a hat, think about layering always. Have good protection. Eye protection, goggles or sunglasses, and wear sun protection. The sun, when we’re out on the snow, the reflection is pretty high so a good SPF sunscreen,” explained Huff Hills Ski Patrol, Kurt Weinberg.
Even though the temperatures are cold, there is still a lot of exertion and sweating when it comes to winter sports. So, it’s always important to keep water handy and stay hydrated.
Being one of very few ski areas in the state, Huff Hills is flooded with people over the weekends.
One way skiers can keep themselves and others safe before hitting the slopes is to first know how to ski or snowboard.
Start on the bunny hill and work your way up to the harder hills. There is also a responsibility code for snowboarders and skiers at Huff Hills that will help keep everyone safe and having fun.
“Just like driving a vehicle, we can’t hit the people in front of us, they have the right of way. And then, we also have to have the responsibility that we have to stop for some reason on the hill, we want to make sure we’re visible from the bottom. We don’t want to stop right underneath the slope or right underneath the park jump. Someone might not know we’re there so it’s a higher risk of collision. So, some of that personal responsibility goes a long way,” explained Huff Hills Mountain Operations Manager, Andy Beck.
If something does happen while you’re skiing or snowboarding, the first thing to do is find someone with a ski patrol jacket on and direct other skiers around the incident.
“So, make that scene safe. Report it to somebody. Help in any way that you can. Get a patroller or mountain staff there and then from there, we can get them transported down to our hut. We have a hut with three cots, and we help people all of the time on the weekends,” said Weinberg.
It’s not as scary as it sounds. Beck says only about one in a million skiers per year will have a serious ski accident.
Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or whatever your snow sport of choice is, always be sure to check the weather before you go anywhere, dress in heavy warm layers, stay hydrated, and always keep the buddy system in mind.