Safety First

Things to remember so you can get down the hill in one piece.

Jonah Pucci advocates the buddy system - and common sense skiing and boarding. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Jonah Pucci advocates the buddy system - and common sense skiing and boarding.

When snow buries a skier, every second matters. “After three minutes of not breathing, your brain starts to die,” says Jonah Pucci, a member of the Schweitzer Mountain ski patrol. Pucci wants skiers to take every possible precaution before hitting the slopes this year. For those skiing out of bounds, this means having a transceiver so others can locate you if you get buried.

“I suggest not only have the right tools, but you need to practice with them once a week,” Pucci says.

And then there are the everyday rules, the common ones that can help prevent collisions and, hopefully, broken bones. Pucci advises skiers to follow safety codes; Schweitzer’s code consists of seven points, which apply to any skier, anywere:

• Always stay in control.

• People ahead of you have the right of way.

• Stop in a safe place for you and others.

• Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.

• Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.

• Observe warning signs, and keep off closed trails.

• Know how to use the lifts safely.

But even while moving on a course, Pucci says skiers must beware of potentially fatal situations. There is still a chance to get suffocated in a Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death (NARSID).

NARSID can occur “when a rider or skier falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized,” according to “The more the person struggles, the more entrapped in the snow they become.”

These can occur around treewells, which are holes or depressions near the trunks of trees. Evergreen trees (firs, hemlocks and others) can have large, deep tree wells that form when low-hanging branches prohibit snow from filling in and consolidating around the base of the tree, according to the website.

Pucci suggests skiing with a partner at all times. That way, if one skier becomes trapped under snow, the other can help him or her dig out.

“Skiing with a buddy is huge,” he says. “You should be able to have someone dug out in three minutes or less.”

Pucci invites skiers interested in learning safety drills to come to Schweitzer Mountain on a Sunday to receive free training. It’s that sort of regular training he says will help skiers stay safe and prepared.

As Pucci says: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Welcome to Snowlander

Every year at this time, it’s a guessing game as to when we might start skiing. We’re always hopeful of a Thanksgiving opening, but we know that many years December is the first month for sliding on snow.

Young Kwak

Going into a season guessing keeps me on pins and needles. Every little shift in the weather has me thinking the big storm is rolling in. And last season was one of wonder. Early season, I was wondering if the snow was going to keep falling in such epic proportions. In January I was wondering if it was ever going to stop raining. In May, I was wondering if the snow would ever let up. Overall, a great year.

Now ski season is a reachable grasp away. Ski movie premieres are in full swing, garages are being cleaned out as old gear is dropped off at local swaps. Life is consumed with finding the perfect jacket, dreaming about buying new ski goggles (even though I already have way too many) and scraping off the old wax and getting the tuning bench all set up.

Here at The Inlander, we’ve been busy plotting a new chapter in the local ski scene — Snowlander, your resource for skiing and riding all over the Northwest. In addition to the monthly printed insert in The Inlander, starting with the one you are reading right now, we’ll be keeping you posted on all developments in the local scene every week online.

So check out our new web page,, for an interactive resort map, stories, blog posts and enter-to-win contests. We’ll also be actively updating our page at That’s where you can post comments, read the latest news items and check out user snapshots and videos. Check ’em both out now and you can enter to win either a brand-new Rossignol snowboard or a pair of Rossignol skis.

Keep looking for snow, and hopefully by this time next month I’ll be writing this between powder turns!

Jen Forsyth Snowlander Editor