A Common Sense Approach to Preventing Ski Injuries

Skiing as a mode of transport and winter sport has been around for nearly five thousand years – as have ski-related injuries. But as youwill see, most snowsport injuries can be prevented with the careful administration of a little common sense.

Statistics indicate that the lion's share of injuries occur after lunch. In part this is because skiers can become fatigued by a heavy meal, and so are off their game. Another reason is that the downhill conditions to which we acclimated at the beginning of the day have likely changed after noon, increasing the complexity and danger of the [slalom]. Check for new signs warning of these new conditions, as well as newly closed trails.

Another obvious yet often-overlooked moment a skier is particularly vulnerable to injury is when she gets on or off a lift. Not all lifts behave the same way: the newer machinery, for example, typically picks skiers up more slowly. If you've spent most of your slope time at a resort with newer mechanics you may be in for a surprise when you visit someplace that is not quite so modern.

Many skiers don't live in the mountain area where their favorite resorts are located, but travel there from homes closer to sea level.  The sudden shift to the higher altitudes can make any activity more difficult, especially rocketing downhill with two boards strapped to your feet. The light-headedness which the elevation imparts is due toyour body working harder to distribute oxygen to all your cells. The best way to minimize that effect is to, quite simply, be in shape. Maintaining a regular regimen of cardiovascular fitness will reduce the oxygenating side effects associated with a sudden altitude switch.

When we do (inevitably) lose control on the slopes, we usually do try to avoid falling by any means necessary. This instinct, perhaps counter-intuitively, is not always the best one while skiing. Struggling against all odds to stay upright is a good way to tear ligaments, a common and particularly painful skiing injury. Oftentimes, when you feel yourself falling backwards, it is better to just “go with it” and sit down. Remember, too, that your butt can also be a great emergency break: when you find yourself losing control, just sitting down will both slow you down and help you regain the proper posture.

One last bit of common sense ski injury prevention: Wear a helmet. It's warmer than a hat, and way more stylish than a severe head injury.