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Safety on the Slopes: Preventing Skiing/Snowboarding Injuries
Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter sports worldwide. As many as 20 million people in the United States participate in some form of snow sport, the majority of whom choose to ski. Taking a ski vacation is a great way to get away to relax and have fun with friends and family. The breathtaking views the mountain can provide are exhilarating on their own. Although skiing and snowboarding can provide fun and recreation for people of all ages, they also have inherent risks. Measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of all skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. Environmental hazards, severe weather, and high speeds all need to be accounted for by anyone choosing to participate in downhill snow sports.
When proper safety measures are not followed, the results can be devastating. Beyond the risk of fatality, alpine sports can cause serious injuries. This is why it is absolutely necessary to follow all recommended safety precautions while skiing or snowboarding.
- Downhill snow sports account for nearly 40 deaths annually.
- This number is small when you consider the number of skiers and snowboarders who participate each year.
- Fatalities only occur at a rate of 1.06 per one million skiing days.
- There are also risks of serious injuries to the head, neck, and bones.
Safety on the mountain begins at home. Skiing and snowboarding both provide a great workout, but alpine sports require a great deal of physical fitness, balance, and coordination before beginning. Taking the time to exercise regularly and staying in good physical shape is an important first step in mountain safety. This includes some form of resistance training (weightlifting), cardiovascular exercise, and tasks to improve balance and coordination.
- Snow sports provide a great way to relax, have fun, and spend time with friends or family.
- Skiing and snowboarding provide an excellent workout for participants.
- Before hitting the mountain, it is important to exercise and get into the proper physical condition for skiing or snowboarding.
- Physical conditioning for skiing requires strength training, cardiovascular training, and some form of hand-eye coordination training.
Once you have trained and undergone the proper physical conditioning to ski, the next safety measure is to use the proper equipment. The most important piece of equipment for being safe while skiing is a helmet. Goggles will be necessary to protect your eyes as you glide down the mountain. Dress warmly, and layer clothing to keep yourself dry.
- Having the proper gear will decrease your chances of injury or weather-related incidents on the mountain.
- A helmet is a necessary piece of equipment for both skiing and snowboarding.
- Clothing that will keep your body warm and dry in the snow will help to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.
- Using a boot fitter will help make sure your boots fit snugly on your feet.
Beginners should consider taking certified courses to learn the basics of skiing before heading out on their own. Skilled instructors can be an excellent resource to learn how to use proper form on your way down the slope. Using the proper techniques is an important piece of remaining safe while skiing or snowboarding.
- Ski instructors can help skiers of all skill levels.
- Learning evasive techniques can help keep you safe while you are on the slopes.
The next important step in skiing safely is to always be aware of your surroundings. When skiers and snowboarders are not aware of their environment, it is not only unsafe for themselves but also affects the safety of everyone around them. Collisions may occur when two skiers or snowboarders fail to see each other. Other environmental hazards are also present on the mountain. Trees, snowbanks, and cliffs are just a few of the dangers to be aware of as you make your descent.
- Collisions with other skiers or other environmental hazards can cause injuries to skiers of any experience level.
- By always being aware of your surroundings, you can decrease the likelihood of collisions.
- Trees and cliffs are significant dangers on a mountain.
One of the environmental hazards that new skiers and snowboarders may not be aware of is the phenomenon called a tree well. A tree well is a section of unpacked snow surrounding the trunk of a tree. The tree's branches allow for voids and loose snow to accumulate around the trunk. Skiers and snowboarders can become trapped in the loose snow and become immobilized.
- Tree wells are areas of loose snow around the bases of trees.
- Skiers and snowboarders can easily fall into a tree well and be trapped.
- Tree wells account for 20% of skier deaths.
- Tree wells can be difficult to see, so it's best to stay away from trees as much as possible.
One way to help avoid the dangers of collisions and tree wells is to not ski alone. A partner will be able to help you spot other skiers on the mountain and avoid collisions, and they can also go for help if disaster strikes. All skiers, especially beginners, should have a partner with them on the mountain.
- Skiing with a partner is a safe practice on the mountain.
- Having a partner increases the likelihood of safe removal from a tree well.
Above all, know and accept your skill level. Skiers and snowboarders who are just beginning should not be skiing on black diamond slopes: Choosing a course that's too advanced raises the risk of injury.