If you plan on hitting the slopes this snow season, you know how much fun skiing can be. Not only is skiing a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter, but it is also great exercise. According to the National Ski Association (NSAA), overall skiing has a good safety rating but injuries still do occur. On average, each year about 40 people suffer serious injuries, such as head or spinal cord injuries and another 40 are killed in ski accidents. Many others suffer minor injuries, such as sprains. Whether you’re an experienced skier or a rookie, nothing ruins a day on the slopes faster than a ski injury. Take a look at some of the ways you can reduce your risk of getting hurt.
Learn Proper Techniques
Poor technique is one of the most common causes of injuries while skiing. If you’re an inexperienced skier, consider a lesson, where you will learn fundamentals including stopping techniques, turning and how to get on and off the lift. Regardless of how fast you catch on to skiing, you’re likely to have a few spills.
An introductory ski lesson may also teach you how to take a fall and get back on your feet. Even if it is not your first time skiing, you may want to consider a refresher lesson. A professional ski instructor can help you identify and correct bad habits, which can lead to injuries.
Injuries from skiing are not only due to falls or collisions. According to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, along with fractures, ankle and knee sprains are the most common types of injuries that occur while skiing. Pulled muscles are also a very common injury.
Skiing takes a combination of balance, strength and endurance. Similar to other sports, you need to warm up first. A proper warm up will help loosen your muscles, get the blood flowing throughout your body and may reduce the likelihood of injuries. Before heading up the mountain, do a few minutes of warm up exercises, such as jogging in place, jumping jacks and stretching. Consider starting with a few slow runs, before moving into more strenuous skiing.
Use Proper Gear
Wearing the right clothing and using proper equipment is one of the best ways to prevent both minor and serious injuries. For instance, always have bindings adjusted by someone who is trained to do so. Bindings need to be able to release at the right time to prevent an injury in case you fall. Also, be sure ski poles are the proper length for your height.
Skiers of all levels should consider wearing helmets, which are critical to reduce head injuries in case of a fall or collision. Goggles or sunglasses can help protect your eyes against glare from the snow and sun. Dressing in layers is best in order to stay warm and deal with changing weather conditions.
Ski a Safe Environment
Not only is proper equipment essential to prevent ski injures, but skiing in a safe environment is equally important. Consider the suggestions below to decrease you chances of getting injured.
- Stay on marked trails. Skiing is not the time to go off the beaten path. Even experienced skiers can run into trouble if they go off onto unmarked trails. Unmarked trails may not be patrolled, which means if you get into trouble, it may be difficult to get help. You are also more likely to encounter obstacles and uneven terrain if you go past marked trails.
- Abide by signs and posted warnings. Signs and warnings are posted on trails for a reason. Even if you think you can handle extreme conditions, adhere to warnings.
- Watch out for other skiers. Collisions with other skiers are one of the way injuries occur. Even if you are a good skier, you have others around you who are just starting out. Watch for unstable skiers coming down the hill who may have trouble stopping or turning.
Be Aware of Weather Conditions
Although you can’t control the weather or how icy the slopes are, you can be aware of what the conditions are like. For example, checking the weather forecast before you go, will allow you to be prepared for very low temperatures or upcoming storms. Most ski resorts provide regular updates on the conditions of the slopes, fresh powder levels and the weather.
While avalanches may not occur frequently, they can be extremely dangerous. According to the National Storm and Ice Date Center (NSIDC), wind direction, temperature and snowpack conditions all play a role in the development of an avalanche.
Before you head out, especially if you are doing backcountry skiing, check conditions in the area you will be skiing.
Flying down a snow covered slope can be an exhilarating way to spend the day. Although it can be enjoyable, skiing can also pose some risks. Using the right equipment and being aware of the conditions around you can greatly reduce your chances of getting hurt. Also, don’t get in over your head too quickly. Skiing a trail, which is way beyond your ability, can lead to injuries. Take your time and work your way up to the expert trails.