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Safety on the Slopes: Preventing Skiing/Snowboarding Injuries

Boy SkiingSkiing 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.