Safety & Awareness – Information for Guests
Helicopter and snowcat skiing, snowboarding, and other activities that take place in wilderness areas, involve the risk of injury. The information contained in the Safety & Risk Awareness section of this website is intended to inform you of the risks, dangers and hazards you may encounter while helicopter or snowcat skiing or snowboarding, and to help you stay safe while enjoying these activities. Whether you are a participant in these activities or a parent or guardian of a minor participant, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the Safety & Risk Awareness information on this website.
Exclusion of Liability – Assumption of Risk
Introduction to Wilderness Skiing and Snowboarding
The term « wilderness skiing and snowboarding » shall include all activities, accommodation, transportation, events and services provided, arranged, organized, conducted, sponsored or authorized by the operator and shall include, but is not limited to: skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing and other form of backcountry travel; rental or use of skis, snowboards or other equipment; demonstrations; orientational and instructional courses; loading, unloading and travel by or movement in or around helicopters, snowcats, snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles; and other activities, events and services in any way connected with or related to wilderness activities.
The use of helicopter or snowcat skiing premises and facilities, and participation in these activities, involves various risks, dangers and hazards. It is a condition of your use of the premises and facilities and your participation in helicopter or snowcat skiing or snowboarding that you assume all risk of personal injury, death or property loss resulting from any cause whatsoever, including negligence, breach of contract, or breach of any duty of care on the part of the operator. Your legal responsibility as a user of the premises and facilities or participant in activities provided by the operator is explained in the following notice, which you will see posted on the premises.
Wilderness Skiing and Snowboarding
Skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing (nordic) involves various risks, dangers, and hazards including, but not limited to, the following:
- Avalanches occur frequently in the terrain used for wilderness activities and may be caused by natural forces or by persons traveling through the terrain.
- The operator may fail to predict whether the alpine terrain is safe for wilderness activities or whether an avalanche may occur.
- The terrain used for wilderness activities is uncontrolled, unmarked, not inspected, and involves many risks, dangers, and hazards in addition to that of avalanche. These may include but are not limited to: cornices; crevasses; cliffs; trees, tree wells, and tree stumps; creeks; rocks; boulders; forest deadfall; holes and depressions on or below the snow surface; cliffs; variable and difficult snow conditions; snowcat roads, snowmobile tracks, and road banks, fences, and other man-made structures; snow immersion; impact or collision with other persons, vehicles or objects; encounters with domestic or wild animals; loss of balance or control; slips, trips and falls; becoming lost or separated from one’s party or guide; negligent first aid; negligence of other persons, including other guests; and NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE OPERATOR.
- Negligence of other persons, and NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE OPERATOR and its directors, officers, employees, instructors, agents, representatives, volunteers, independent contractors, subcontractors, sponsors, successors and assigns.
- NEGLIGENCE INCLUDES FAILURE ON THE PART OF THE OPERATOR TO TAKE REASONABLE STEPS TO SAFEGUARD OR PROTECT GUESTS FROM THE RISKS, DANGERS, AND HAZARDS OF WILDERNESS ACTIVITIES.
- Communication in the alpine terrain is difficult and in the event of an accident, rescue and medical treatment may not be available.
- Alpine weather conditions may be extreme and can change rapidly and without warning, making travel by helicopter, snowcat or snowmobile hazardous.
YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF THE RISKS, DANGERS AND HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH WILDERNESS ACTIVITIES AND FREELY ACCEPT AND FULLY ASSUME ALL SUCH RISKS, DANGERS, AND HAZARDS AND THE POSSIBILITY OF PERSONAL INJURY, DEATH, PROPERTY DAMAGE OR LOSS RESULTING THEREFROM.
Alpine Ski/Snowboard Boot Binding Systems
The ski boot/binding system for wilderness skiing may not release during every fall or may release unexpectedly. The ski boot/binding system is no guarantee that the skier will not be injured.
The snowboard boot/binding system is not designed or intended to release and will not release under normal circumstances. Given the snowboard boot binding system is not a releasable system, it will not reduce the risk of injury during a fall and will increase the risk of not surviving an avalanche.
A helmet designed for recreational snow sports may reduce the risk of some types of head injuries. Helmets are strongly recommended. In some skiing activities (for example snow school lessons involving minors) helmets are mandatory. Helmets for skiing and snowboarding are light, comfortable and have achieved widespread acceptance. Please note, however, that helmets have limitations and that serious head injury can still occur even when a helmet is worn. Wearing a helmet is no guarantee of safety.
The Avalanche Airbag System (AAS) consists of a backpack integrating an airbag system which is inflated by manually pulling an activation handle. Once inflated, an AAS may assist in keeping a person caught in an avalanche closer to the surface, thus potentially increasing the chances of survival. The AAS may not always inflate and may not protect the user against trauma during an avalanche.
Notice to Snowboarders and Telemark Skiers – Increased Risk
Unlike alpine ski boot/binding systems, snowboard and some telemark boot/binding systems are not designed or intended to release and will not release under normal circumstances. The use of a safety strap or retention device by snowboarders or telemark skiers without ski brakes will increase the risk of not surviving an avalanche.
Adventure Film Activities
The term « adventure film activities » applies to all wilderness activities as defined in the Wilderness Activities Release Agreement, and, in addition, shall include any activities of any nature or any kind whatsoever relating to the production of photographs, films or videos, or any other activities involving the Releasees, including set up of equipment, scouting for locations, preparatory work, mountaineering, climbing, rigging, safety work, photography, videography, and filming. Adventure film activities are significantly more dangerous than wilderness activities as defined in the Wilderness Activities Release Agreement. The safety precautions normally undertaken in wilderness activities may be reduced or eliminated altogether. These activities are frequently incompatible with personal safety and there is a substantial risk of serious injury or death as a result of engaging in such activities. This risk may be increased due to negligence on the part of the helicat operator, including the failure to take reasonable steps to safeguard or protect guests from the risks, dangers, and hazards associated with these activities. The helicat operator may fail to advise guests as to the risks, dangers, and hazards associated with adventure film activities or, alternatively, any advice given may be inadequate or incorrect. All these factors will substantially increase the risk of serious injury or death as a result of engaging in these activities.
Wilderness Activities Release Agreement
You will be asked to sign a Wilderness Activities Release Agreement, which is intended to describe the risks, dangers, and hazards that are associated with wilderness skiing and snowboarding AND asks you to acknowledge these risks and accept the fact that injuries and death are possibilities while participating in wilderness skiing and snowboarding.
This is a copy of the Wilderness Activities Release Agreement you will be asked to sign. Please follow this link to this waiver in various other languages – https://www.neheliskiing.com/liability-waiver
Wilderness Skiing and Snowboarding Responsibility Code
The Wilderness Skiing and Snowboarding Responsibility Code provides the basic rules of conduct and must be followed by all using the wilderness terrain and helicat operator facilities. There are elements of risk that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Please adhere to the code listed below and always show courtesy to others.
- Listen to and follow your guide’s instructions.
- Always stop above your guide.
- Ski and snowboard close to other tracks set by your group.
- Always keep spacing between each skier and rider as directed by your guide.
- On tree runs always ski and snowboard with a partner, remove pole straps and be aware of tree
- Always ski and snowboard in control and be aware of mountain hazards.
- Approach and join a waiting/stopped group slowly and cautiously.
- Electronics: turn off cell phone reception and don’t impair hearing with music devices.
- Never ski or snowboard up to helicopter; always approach it on foot behind your guide.
- Never walk to the rear of a helicopter and always keep yourselves and your equipment low.
- Maintain the designated position as a helicopter arrives and departs.
- Familiarize yourself avalanche rescue gear: transceiver, shovel, probe, and radio.
- Always have a skiing and snowboarding partner. Ski close enough to them that you will immediately know if they fall into a tree well or get caught in an avalanche.
- You must not participate in wilderness skiing or snowboarding if your ability is impaired through the use of alcohol or drugs.
Helicopter and Snowcat Safety
While wilderness skiing, skiers and snowboarders may use a variety of transportation methods such as helicopters, snowcats, and snowmobiles. Users should be familiar with the use of these transportation methods for their own safety and the safety of others. Guides, drivers and pilots will provide safety briefings that inform users about the process for loading, riding, and unloading. Pay attention and obey these briefings.
If you are unfamiliar with helicopters, snowcats, or snowmobiles, or have questions, please ask your guide for assistance and direction.
Additional Safety Tips
In addition to the Wilderness Skiing and Snowboarding Responsibility Code, here are some additional tips to keep you safe and to help you enjoy your day on the slopes:
- Plan ahead for variations in weather. Dress appropriately and have properly tuned gear. Warmth and visibility are key safety components.
- UV rays are reflected from the snow surface. Always wear sunscreen and goggles or sunglasses, even on cloudy days.
- Cold temperatures increase the likelihood of frostbite. Dress warm, bring extra layers, and keep an eye on exposed skin. Go inside immediately if your skin begins to turn white.
- Take note of the conditions. When the snow surface is hard and fast, it is easy to ski/ride at high speed, increasing the risk for serious injury if you fall and slide. Be aware of changing snow surface conditions.
- Tree Wells
- A tree well is the space around a tree under its branches that does not get the same amount of snow as the surrounding open space. This creates a void or area of loose snow below the branches and around the tree trunk that is dangerous to skiers and snowboarders.
- If someone lands in a tree well, it is often headfirst, which can leave them injured or unconscious, or they may suffocate.
- When a victim falls into a tree well, their head and arms will likely be heading down into the hole and their skis or snowboard will be above them. Loose snow will start to fall in around the victim as they move, packing them in against the tree. They will be upside down in the tree well.
- The biggest threat from falling in tree wells is suffocation from the snow packing in around the victim. Another threat can be from hitting the tree and getting injured.
- If you fall into a tree well, don’t panic. Rapid movement and struggling will worsen the situation. It is important to stay still and save energy. You are not likely to get yourself out and will require assistance from others.
- Grab whatever part of the tree you can or hug the tree trunk. Grab tree branches or other parts of the tree to try to stabilize yourself and stop yourself from falling deeper. Hold on tight. Look for air pockets to push your head into. Breathe. Be aware that every movement, however slight, will cause more snow to pack in around you. Do not shake the tree. Create air holes and wait for rescue.
- To prevent falling into tree wells, ski well clear of trees when skiing deep powder. Falling into a tree well is preventable simply by staying away from trees in deep powder.
- To be rescued quickly, ski close to, but beside a buddy. A buddy skiing who is below you on the slope may not know that you fell into a tree well and will have difficulty getting uphill to find and rescue you.
- Be particularly cautious when skiing/riding in the trees. Tree wells are a real risk.
- If your ski buddy falls into a tree well, you must respond as quickly as possible to rescue them.
- Call out to other skiers in your group to notify them. If you have a whistle, blow it to attract attention.
- Go to the tree well location. Three rescuers are an ideal number of rescuers, so if you are by yourself you may only be able to stabilize the situation until other help arrives.
- In some simple situations, you may be able to pull the skier out of the tree well; in other situations, they will be too far down for this to be successful. Grasp the bottom hem of the victim’s jacket and carefully pull the victim. At the very least, hold the skier from sliding further into the tree well.
- In some cases, a receiving platform or trench may need to be dug below the victim to be able to pull them out of the tree well. Successful tree well rescue is a combination of digging, platform preparation, and pulling.
- Ensure the skier’s airway is clear of snow and that there is an air pocket around their head for them to breathe. Don’t shake the tree or push additional snow into the tree well.
- If the skier is conscious, reassure them and tell them to remain still and calm.
- Remove ski or snowboard equipment from the victim if it is safe to do so.
- When the victim is out of the tree well, assess their condition, and apply first aid as required.
- See more on tree well safety at Deep Snow Safety and the Tree Well Rescue Best Practices bulletin.
- Avalanches – Take an avalanche course. Learn more about avalanches through Avalanche Canada at Avalanche Canada.
- Don’t overdo it – Be aware of fatigue; many visitors are on vacation and might not be conditioned to ski/ride long days. Warm-up in the morning and stretch it out, then tone it down in the afternoon. Stay hydrated and carry a snack with you to keep you fueled.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Be mindful of where you stop on the slope, for your safety and the safety of other skiers and snowboarders. When resting, move over to the side of the run. Never stop under a roller, jump, cat track, or on a blind corner, as skiers uphill from you will not be able to see you.
- When skiing and snowboarding, be aware of other skiers and snowboarders. Look uphill before you commence downhill, and yield to other skiers and snowboarders.
- If in doubt, ask your guide.
Ski Operator Premises
When visiting a ski or snowboarding operator, the premises are not limited to skiing and boarding. Many operators will have lodges, parking lots, restaurants, trails and walkways, access roads, helicopter pads, snowcat garages, and other facilities. You will come across signage throughout the premises that are important to respect and understand. Please pay close attention to all signage. It is present for the safety of both guests and employees. Failing to follow the directions on these signs may result in self-imposed injury. It is your responsibility to be aware of signage at facilities at all times.
Slipping and falling at helicat ski areas has the potential for serious injuries and should not be overlooked as a risk. There are many wet, snowy, icy, and slippery surfaces throughout a given facility. Slips, trips, and falls are common, and all users should always take precautions. Ski boots and many types of other footwear do not provide good traction, and extra caution should be used when walking. Be particularly careful of slips and falls on snowy or icy surfaces if you have consumed alcohol.