With local mountains kicking off an early ski and snowboard season, we have plenty to celebrate as annual snow rituals begin. We all love getting up on the mountain as early as possible (my family and I enjoyed one of our earliest first ski days ever this year), but since my husband is a nearly 20-year member of the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol, we also take mountain safety seriously. At least we try our best.

One Christmas morning a few winters back while my husband was on duty in his patrol jacket, our then four-year-old son, in route to the bunny hill lift, came crashing into another child and her ski instructor. All while I was frantically attempting to catch up, yelling, “SLOW DOWN!” Luckily, my son was the only child crying after the collision. We remind him of this story every December before our family’s annual Safety Talk. As you get ready for your own early days on the slopes, consider these cautionary pointers.

Start slow. Use those first few runs to warm up your legs and remind your muscles what turning and stopping are all about. It’s been awhile since they’ve been in boots and gone over bumps and through powder. Perhaps venture down a run you consider easy, or, if with children, the bunny hill.

Refresh your memory. Test your knowledge of dos and don’ts by reading the Skier Responsibility Code on the National Ski Area Association website and, if you have kids, watch the brief educational video.

Don’t overdo it. Listen to your body and don’t push it past reasonable limits for early season workouts. If you’re feeling too tired after lunch, call it a day and relax with a cocoa or beer in the lodge bar.

Be cautious. Variable terrain and low snow coverage should be expected for the first several weeks of the season. Bushy scrub and low-hanging branches, logs, rocks, and downed trees may be sticking out of the snow or hiding close to the surface. Don’t be that person who breaks a snow bridge and falls into the creek or gets the tips of your skis or board trapped under a downed branch. If you’re lucky, all you’ll end up with is some snow in your jacket and some embarrassing photos on Facebook. Worse: you could get end up with a toboggan ride down the hill.

Get out there and enjoy some of the earliest turns we’ve had in years, but remember: there’s a long season ahead that you’ll miss out on if laid-up with crutches. //