7 ways to stay safe on the slopes

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are exhilarating sports. They can also be dangerous. Follow these seven simple precautions to keep your time on the slopes both safe and fun.

1) Get in shape for the season

Skiing when you are out of shape can raise your risk of getting hurt. If you are in shape at the start of the season, you’re not only less likely to get injured but are also more likely to have fun.

Maintain a program of cardiovascular exercises and strength training in the off-season before you hit the slopes.

Check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.

Include strength-training exercises that will target the muscles you use for skiing.

Consider a personal trainer if possible to get familiar with gym equipment and get the most out of your workouts.
2) Get ski/snowboarding training

If you are a beginner, you need to learn the basics, such as how to “snow-plow” or brake and slow down, as well as how to fall down and get back up safely.

If you are an experienced skier, take a refresher course.
3) Get to know the slope

Study maps of the area where you plan to ski.

Learn the ski conditions for the day, the condition of the snow pack and whether there are thin or bare spots. Also, check the weather conditions on the slope.
4) Learn the rules

Skiers and snowboarders ahead of you have the right of way. You should always keep them in view. They may not be able to see you.

If you have to stop, then do so beside the run, well in view of other passing skiers.

Follow posted signs and rules.

Never ski on a closed trail.

Never ski alone.
5) Get the right equipment

Ask for expert advice, such as from a trained sales associate, when buying equipment.

Don’t borrow skiing/snowboarding equipment. If you don’t expect to ski or snowboard more than 10 times in a season, then rent from a reputable store with knowledgeable staff.

Adjust your boots and bindings to get a proper fit. Bindings are the safety mechanisms that attach the boot to the ski. They are supposed to allow the boot to detach from the ski if you fall.

Buy skis that are the right size and appropriate for your level. Shorter skis may be better for you if you are a beginner. They tend to be easier to turn and don’t go as fast as longer skis.
6) Dress for the slopes

Dress in warm and comfortable clothing.

Dress in layers. Inner layers should be made of a material that will wick away perspiration and keep you dry. Outer layers should be of a water-resistant material that reduces sliding on a slippery surface if you fall. Colors should be bright for good visibility.

Wear close-fitting clothing. Loose clothing can get tangled up in poles or around lifts. Close-fitting clothes are safer.

Apply sunblock to any exposed skin. Even though it’s winter, you can still get sunburned.

Wear sunglasses or sun goggles. Use a product that blocks close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB ultraviolet radiation.

Wear a ski helmet. There are no laws requiring you to do so like in competitive skiing, bicycling or inline skating. But evidence shows that wearing a helmet may save your life. A study of 3,277 skiers during one winter season showed that helmet use lowers the risk of head injury in snowboarders and Alpine skiers. More and more adults are heeding the warning and wearing helmets on the slopes.
7) Teach the kids safe skiing and snowboarding

Set a good example for your children by following the rules. A few key things to tell your kids:

Always wear a helmet. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated that 7,700 head injuries could be prevented each year if skiers wore a helmet. About 2,600 of these head injuries are to children. Kids will be more likely to wear a helmet if they see you wearing one.

Never ski alone. Always ski with someone in case you get hurt.

Know your limits. Ski only on the trails that are right for your level of expertise.
View the original 7 ways to stay safe on the slopes article on myOptumHealth.com


Consumer Product Safety Commission. Winter skiing tips for kids. Accessed: 11/04/2008
National Ski Patrol. Helmet use. Accessed: 11/05/2008
Sulheim S, Holme I, Ekeland A, Bahr R. Helmet use and risk of head injuries in Alpine skiers and snowboarders. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2006;295(8):919-924. Accessed: 11/04/2008
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Play it safe in the sun: a guide for parents Accessed: 11/04/2008
Consumer Product Safety Commission. Skiing helmets: an evaluation of the potential to reduce head injury. Accessed: 11/04/2008
National Safety Council. Ski and snowboard safely Accessed: 11/04/2008