Don’t Become a Statistic on the Ski Slopes

Rolf Langeland, M.D.

Forty-five. That’s how many catastrophic injuries took place in U.S. ski areas last year, according to data from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). It’s National Ski Safety Month, and with a new ski season underway, it’s a great time to share some tips to keep you safe on the slopes.

Don’t forget to stretch: It’s important to condition your body and muscles beforehand to have the most enjoyable and safest experience. In addition to regular year-round exercise, pay special attention to working your quads, hamstrings, and core. A good daily warmup and adequate stretching will help build mental as well as muscle strength and help prevent physical injury.

Safety first: An annual helmet usage study conducted by NSAA found that overall, 80 percent of all skiers and snowboarders wore helmets during the 2015-16 ski season. In fact, you rarely see skiers today without helmets. In addition to wearing protective headgear, consider wearing sunglasses or goggles, dress appropriately for the physical elements, and use ski equipment that fits you properly.

Know your conditions: Skiing in the eastern U.S. with its hard-packed snow and ice offers a very different experience from the powdery snow you commonly find in the west. Brush up on where you’ll be skiing before you go to avoid unnecessary injuries.

Don’t forget these other safety tips:

  • Watch weather conditions, as they can change quickly.
  • Ski on trails geared to your skill level.
  • Respect trail rules.
  • Take personal responsibility and pay attention to those around you.

One last run? Did you know most ski injuries occur during the last run of the day? Remember to listen to your body. It’s best to stop skiing before you feel too tired — and that might mean skipping that last run of the day. The good news is you’ll likely be skipping a resulting physical injury in the process.

Wishing you safe skiing this winter.

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