Stay Safe While Skiing — Tips for Skiers

Safety is paramount while skiing. Skiers should take all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents and injuries while going downhill. Not doing so can lead to the injury of the skier or others. Every year, tens of thousands of people are treated for snow skiing-related injuries in US hospitals. Some of the most common injuries are knee injuries, lower leg fractures, and shoulder fractures, dislocations, and sprains.

Sometimes, skiers suffer catastrophic injuries. These include head and spine injuries that cause neurological trauma or full or partial paralysis. According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were 29 catastrophic injuries suffered by skiers and snowboarders in the 2019–2020 ski season. In the worst case scenarios, injuries are fatal. In the 2019–20 season, for example, 42 people died while skiing or snowboarding.

As a skier, you should take precautions while on the slopes. It all starts with your equipment. Always wear a helmet and protective goggles when you ski. The helmet should be a ski helmet, not a bike helmet, and it should be properly fitted. Purchase or hire boots and bindings that have been tested by the American Society of Testing and Materials and adjusted properly. Do not borrow equipment from a friend, as it may not fit you properly. The bindings on each of your skis should be adjusted to your weight, height, and skiing ability. For clothes, wear layers of light, waterproof, and wind-resistant clothing.

Before skiing, note the weather forecast. If there will be storms or significant drops in temperature, consider skiing on another day. If you must ski, then be ready for icy conditions or wet snow.

Once you get to the slopes, don’t just jump on the first lift and make your way up the hill. Start by warming up. Research shows that cold muscles are more easily injured. You can warm up by doing jumping jacks and then stretching your muscles. Only afterward should you board a lift.

Once you get to the top of the hill, hop off and make your way to the start position. Be aware of your limits. Do not attempt to go down a hill that is above your skill level, and stick to tracks that you can comfortably handle. As your skills improve, you can gradually take on tougher courses. And always stay off closed trails.

Before starting downhill, look behind you and wait for oncoming skiers to pass before setting out. On your way down, watch out for trees, rocks, and icy patches. Control your pace. You must be able to avoid the people ahead of you as well as obstructions. Further, do not ski distracted. Leave your earphones at home so you are 100 percent alert and focused while going downhill, and observe all posted signs and warnings.

Ideally, you should always ski with a partner. Stay within each other’s sight while maintaining a safe distance to avoid collision. If you get ahead of them stop and wait, but never stop in the middle of a trail. Move to one side so you do not obstruct others.

Finally, pay attention to your body while skiing. If you are dehydrated, drink water. If you suspect you may be experiencing frostbite, seek medical attention immediately. And when you are tired, make a point to rest. Most accidents on the ski slope happen in the final hours of the day. This is usually when skiers are tired but decide to take a last run down. Some even attempt a tougher slope at this point, so be aware of these tendencies.

Only ski when you are in good physical condition, and exercise good judgment on the slopes. If you do get into an accident on the slopes and are injured, stay where you are and send your partner to get help. The resort’s patrol will come and ensure you get the proper medical care.

Robert S. Castellini — Active in Philanthropy