As we head into winter, ski season is just around the corner. Skiing is a popular outdoor sport that millions love. But with this sport comes the inherent risk of injury or death.
Ski slopes can be steep, and between avalanches, busy hills, and jammed parking lots, a fun day on the snow can quickly turn to a trip to the emergency room, or worse. Even seasoned skiers who make it their mission to be the best they can be can lose control.
Just one example is Daniel-Andre Tande, who was hospitalized and made to enter a medically induced coma after a fall during the World Cup in Slovenia this past March.
Skiing presents a unique set of obstacles and possible dangers due to the nature of the sport. High altitudes, cold weather, strong winds, reduced visibility, and high speed downhill momentum all make for a thrilling but often perilous experience. Proper preparation, gear, and awareness can make the difference between life and death. Here are some of our ski season safety tips to keep you safe this winter skiing season.
One of our first ski season safety tips is to make sure to check your gear. Before you even step foot on the slopes, it’s important to have the right gear and the knowledge on how to use it correctly. Gear that is properly fitted and is in good working condition is key to keeping you safe on the hill.
Skis: Especially if you’re renting, it’s important to be aware of how skis work and how to tell if they’re in good working condition. Generally speaking, the bigger (longer) the ski, the faster it goes. Large skis can be harder to control than smaller ones, especially for beginners. Whether you’re buying or renting, be sure to consider your size and ability when deciding on which pair of skis is right for you. And before you go to the snow, make sure to have them fitted and tuned up by a trained professional at a shop. Keep an eye out for signs of damage such as cracked edges or sidewalls.
Boots: Your boots are what keep you connected to your skis, so it’s vital to make sure you have the right fit and material. Boots should feel snug but not painful, and should provide support to your feet and ankles. Proper fitting boots are key to being able to properly control your skis.
Bindings: Bindings are what keep your boots attached to your skis. Don’t adjust your bindings yourself. Just like skis themselves, your bindings should only be adjusted by a professional at a ski shop. In case of emergency, bindings should be able to be released to prevent leg injury. However, they shouldn’t release too easily, as this can lead to an increased risk of falls and other injuries.
Poles: Ski poles should be the right length for your stature and have loops to go around your wrists.
Goggles: Sun-blindness is serious business, and when sunshine hits the pristine snow, it can be blinding. High winds, cold weather, and snowy conditions can be extremely taxing on the eyes too. That’s why it’s important to have proper eye protection through goggles and sunglasses to maintain visibility throughout your skiing experience.
Helmet: Just like with riding a bike, climbing, or skateboarding, wearing a helmet can be the difference between life and death (or serious brain trauma) in the case of an accident. Make sure your helmet fits properly and doesn’t impede visibility.
Gloves: Protect your hands from frostbite by wearing gloves. Gloves should fit well so you can control your poles with ease, but provide adequate warmth and insulation.
Our next ski season safety tip is about clothing. Make sure to dress for the weather before you go. Thermal underwear and socks are a must. Make sure to bring layers, with a sturdy pair of ski pants and a weatherproof jacket. Don’t forget a hat or neck gaiter either. Most of your heat escapes through your head, so a warm hat can help insulate and keep you warm.
Add ons: In addition to clothing items, it’s wise to bring plenty of sunscreen, lip balm, and sustenance. Skiing is tasking on the body and it’s important to be prepared.
Once you’re reading to hit the slopes, here are a few ski season safety tips to keep in mind:
Know your limits: Especially with a sport with as many risks as skiing, it’s important to know your limits and not to push them. Don’t try to show off or push yourself if you know you’re not ready. Taking things slow and building up experience is wise, but even as a seasoned skier it’s important to be aware that your abilities have limits.
Never ski alone: Just like swimming, it’s much safer to ski with a friend. If something happens and you don’t have a friend with you, your chances of getting out of that situation without serious injury or death are significantly smaller. In addition to bringing a friend, it’s a great idea to bring a backcountry communication device such as a personal locator beacon or satellite phone. If you get trapped far from people, these devices can be the difference between life and death.
Practice good etiquette: Skiers below you on the hill or in front of you have right of way. Make sure to avoid them. Once you’re on a trail, don’t stop in the middle of the trail, and don’t stop where you can’t be seen by other downhill skiers. When passing, call out “on your left/right” to alert other skiers so they can get out of the way.
For more ski season safety tips and other pointers on personal injury, learn more from our blog!