Image: Jack Dylan

Every year as we near winter and the snow gets deeper, excitement grows. Winter sports! Holiday cheer! But like many good things in life, snow has its downsides—death being a big one. Handfuls of people meet their untimely demise every year while enjoying the snow, often due to freak accidents or bad decisions.

Don’t make 2020 worse by becoming one of the sad stories people tell on their way up to the mountain.

While avalanches aren’t generally of concern here, they are more likely outside of ski area boundaries, in areas not controlled or patrolled. The National Ski Areas Association created a responsibility code that urges skiers to observe signs and warnings and keep off closed trails. Respect gravity in general: even just in mud and mist, you wouldn’t want to slip and fall on a wet winter walk to Abiqua Falls, the stunner on our Winter 2020/2021 issue’s cover.

Tree wells—air pockets near trunks where the tree has blocked snow from building up—can suffocate skiers and boarders who get trapped in them. Stay on groomed paths. If you venture off, riding with a partner in sight can save your life. Wear a helmet, too, and carry a whistle.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has plenty of advice to help you get to the ski hill or trailhead safely, too. What else to pack? Personal awareness, respect, and a little common sense go a long way.