What to Know to Stay Safe on the Slopes
Skiing is a great way to spend time outside and get exercise in the winter months. As family time or a getaway with friends, a ski trip is a fun and popular way to keep active in the winter.
But whether visiting the hills in Wisconsin and Michigan or venturing out West, ski safety is of the utmost importance. Skiing is the top cause of winter sports-related injuries, resulting in a wide range of conditions including knee, shoulder and head injuries.
As with most forms of physical activity, the right equipment and proper precautions can keep you and your loved ones safe on the slopes. Learn key safety tips before you hit the slopes.
Before You Go
1. Know the Rules
If it’s your first time skiing, consider arranging a lesson to learn how to safely navigate hills at your skill level. Veteran skiers can help prevent accidents by reading ski resort rules before visiting and everyone should review the National Safety Council’s ski and snowboard traffic tips to avoid collisions when passing, stopping or merging on the mountain.
2. Buddy Up
New skiers and old pros alike should ski with a partner. Buddy up with someone of a similar level and stick together, checking in periodically on your way down the mountain. Ski safely when someone’s watching out for you – it’s better together!
3. Check the Weather
Scope out the snow situation at your destination. Most resorts will provide updates on snow and ice conditions, and you’ll want to be aware of any upcoming storms or severe changes. The type of snow – powder, frozen, man-made – can also affect your ski experience and may dictate certain safety precautions. Prep and dress accordingly!
4. Strength Train
It’s best to stay in shape between ski trips or before hitting the mountain for the first time. Orthopaedic physicians recommend Pilates-style exercise to strengthen your core and squats or lunges to build hamstring and quadriceps muscles.
5. Carry Contacts
Carry a cell phone in a secure and waterproof pouch in case of emergencies. Stay in touch if you separate from your group and solo skiers should check in before going on any great adventures. Weather can change quickly and if you find yourself out of your comfort zone due to the cold or snow conditions, you’ll want to be able to communicate with your friends, family or emergency staff.
On the Slopes
1. Check Yourself
Make sure your bindings, equipment and boots are all in working order to avoid any mishaps. Consider checking in with a ski shop if you’re unsure about fit or tightness of your boots or need to get your skis or board waxed. Light, loose layers are ideal, and water- and wind-resistant is a clothing-must for any weather. Pick goggles with an appropriate tone for the lighting and visibility, and always wear a helmet for maximum safety.
2. Warm Up
Cold muscles are more likely to be injured, so warm up before setting off for the day by doing jumping jacks or running and walking in place for a few minutes. Stretches involving your quadriceps, hamstrings and buttock are perfect. Hitting the bunny hills for a lap or two is another great way to warm up.
3. Ski Fit and in Form
Select ski slopes that match your fitness level and be wary of overexertion. Most ski injuries happen at the end of the day, so stop when you’re tired and avoid pressure to keep skiing past your limit. Skiing in proper form can help you avoid injury and orthopaedic physicians recommend you keep your arms forward, your weight in front of you and your skis together.
4. Look Around You
You’ve done your research on the weather, but it’s just as important to adapt when you’re on the slopes. Pay attention to your surroundings and look out for ice patches, open water, rocks or exposed ground. Keep your distance from trees and fencing, and unless you’re an off-trail expert, stay on the marked slopes.
As with any workout, it’s essential to stay hydrated during the day. Your body can lose considerable amounts of water over the course of a day skiing, even if you don’t feel like you’re working out. Drink lots of water before, during and after skiing to keep yourself safe.