CAT Skiing at Kirkwood

On Hill Safety


Know your ability level and stay within it. Observe “Your Responsibility Code” listed below and share with other skiers the responsibility for a great skiing experience.

1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.


Certain areas (indicated on the map in yellow) are designated as SLOW ZONES. Please observe the posted slow areas by maintaining a speed no faster than the general flow of traffic. Space and speed are especially important in these areas. Fast and aggressive skiing will not be tolerated.


Backtrack onto a maintained trail. If you have cell phone reception, call 209-258-7224. Wait for someone to answer; do not hang up until all pertinent information has been gathered. You may also report incidents to any uniformed staff member, but please stay with them until all pertinent information is gathered.  First Aid is available 7 days a week, during normal operating hours.
CAUTION. Snowcats, snowmobiles and snowmaking may be encountered at any time.


Vail Resorts strongly discourages the use of electronic devices including cell phones, personal entertainment and communication devices, and any other electronic equipment that utilizes head/ear phones while skiing and snowboarding, or loading and unloading lifts.


Skiing and snowboarding off the groomed runs and in deep powder is one of the most exciting and appealing parts of the sport. However, if you decide to leave the groomed trails you are voluntarily accepting the risk of a deep snow immersion accident. A deep snow or tree well immersion accident occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized and suffocates. Deaths resulting from these kinds of accidents are referred to as a NARSID or Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death.

Become educated on how to reduce the risk of NARSID through your own action and awareness. ALWAYS ski or ride with a partner. The website is intended to assist all skiers and riders in learning about the risks and prevention of deep snow immersion accidents.

If you choose to ski or snowboard in the ungroomed, deep snow areas with trees, remember: 

  • Ski/Ride With a Partner.  It is critical to ski or ride with a partner who remains in visual contact at all times.  In many cases, some of the deaths which have occurred due to tree well incidents may have been avoided had 1) the person been with a partner, 2) the partner saw the person fall, and 3) the partner was close enough to assist digging the victim out in a timely manner.
  • Every Second Counts.  It does no good for your safety if you are under the snow and your partner is waiting for you at the bottom of the lift. If you have any question about what a "timely manner" is to assist someone in a tree well, hold your breath now as you are reading this and the amount of time until you need air is approximately how much time your partner has to help get you out of danger.  Other factors such as creating an air pocket or the nature of how you fall into the well may extend this critical timeframe. 
  • Maintain Visual Contact.  Visual contact means stopping and watching your partner descend at all times, then proceeding downhill while he or she watches you at all times. IF YOU LOSE VISUAL SIGHT OF YOUR PARTNER, YOU COULD LOSE YOUR FRIEND.
  • Carry Backcountry Gear.  Carry the same personal rescue gear as backcountry skiers or snowboarders: Transceiver, Shovel, Probe, and Whistle. 
  • Remove Your Pole Straps.  If you are a skier, remove your pole straps before heading down a powder slope.  Trapped skiers have difficulty removing the pole straps, which can hamper efforts to escape or clear an air space to breathe. 

WHAT IF I GO DOWN?  Hopefully, your partner will have seen what happened and will come to your rescue within minutes.  If not, experts advise staying calm while waiting for assistance.  Survival chances are improved if you maintain your air space.  Over time, heat generated by your body, combined with your rocking motions, will compact the snow, and you may be able to work your way out.  

  • If you are sliding toward a tree well or a deep snow bank, do everything you can to avoid going down: grab branches, hug the tree, or anything to stay above the surface.  
  • If you go down, resist the urge to struggle violently.  The more you struggle, the more snow will fall into the well from the branches and area around the well and compact around you.  
  • Instead of panicking, try first to make a breathing space around your face.  Then move your body carefully in a rocking manner to hollow out the snow and give you space and air.  



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