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A crash course aids awareness

Mountains high on safety program

Drive a car? Ride a bike? The message is the same on the slopes: Be aware.

Safety, respect, and awareness will be in the spotlight at mountains nationwide during National Safety Awareness Week, a Jan. 15-21 initiative sponsored by the ski industry group National Ski Areas Association. Among the offerings at ski areas nationwide will be free ski binding checks, helmet demonstrations, and contests.

"Be aware of the surroundings and conditions," said Tom Meyers, spokesman at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton. "Those are probably the most important."

At Wachusett, when school groups arrive, the buses are greeted by employees, who give a rundown on slope etiquette, so it's fresh in the young skiers' minds.

Though safety might seem ho-hum, skiing and snowboarding come with risks -- broken bones to death. According to the NSAA, over the past decade about 38 people have died each year in skiing or snowboarding accidents.

Just as skiing has long had its Responsibility Code, terrain parks are now home to a Smart Style campaign started by Burton Snowboards: Look before you leap, respect gets respect, and easy style it.

Sunday River has its fledgling Go with the Flow program that features lime green signs reminding skiers to use sound judgment on the slopes.

"Safety is a continuous focus for us," said Sunday River spokeswoman Susan Duplessis. "We're glad that there is a week where it gets more attention than normal."

They're all on board

Some of the best skiers and snowboarders from the United States, Canada, and Europe descend on Mount Snow for the Jeep King of the Mountain Series Jan. 22-23. Americans Casey Puckett and Chris Klug will take on competitors such as Canada's Jasey Jay Anderson and Germany's Martin Fiala on a Y-shaped race course with plenty of bumps and jumps. There's an open qualifier the first day, with the championships the next day. This Saturday, the West Dover, Vt., resort is the site of the Mega Mother Hucker, in which top East Coast skiers and riders go for $5,000 by getting big air, with music provided by a live band . . . One of New England's oldest citizens' races, the 15-kilometer Geschmossel cross-country classical ski race at Bretton Woods, has attracted all types of skiers, from amateurs to top-level collegiate and US Ski Team racers, over the years. This year's race is Monday. Bretton Woods also has something new in store this month: the Randonnee Rally, set for Jan. 22. Rooted in ski mountaineering and popular in Europe, the event sends competitors out on foot, running to clip into their skis. Using climbing skins, they race to the first gate, remove their skins, and ski down to a second gate, where they do the whole thing again until reaching the finish . . . Skiers can hold on to their Benjamins at Mad River Glen Jan. 25, when lift tickets are rolled back to their 1948 rate of $3.50 as the Vermont area celebrates an anniversary. Attitash in Bartlett, N.H., rolls out its 40th anniversary bash at the end of the month, with 40 days of deals and events. The first 400 lift tickets sold Jan. 28 will go for $7.50. Go to for $40 Sunday lift tickets and two-for-$40 Wednesday tickets from Jan. 30-March 6. At Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., pay $25 for a lift ticket good only for Mount Ellen's 42 trails on Wednesdays through Feb. 16 . . . Bill Johnson, the first American to win Olympic gold in the downhill, is expected to be in attendance at the Bill Johnson Vertical Challenge for Brain Injury Awareness Jan. 22 at Cranmore. Johnson suffered brain trauma during a 2001 comeback attempt training run . . . The New England Telemark Festival stops at Cannon Mountain for the weekend of Jan. 22-23, with clinics, demos, and races. On Monday, there's a demo day at Nashoba Valley in Westford to cap off the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

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