Hitting the Slopes Safely

For the winter sports enthusiast, a day without snow is not the end of the world. After all, you can't control the weather.  Rather, the saddest day for skiers and snowboarders is when there is a lot of snow but they're forced to stay inside because of an injury.

Skiing and snowboarding carry a fairly high risk of injury, but that risk can be greatly reduced if you:

Getting Prepared
Skiing and snowboarding are strenuous activities. They require agility and flexibility. They put heavy demand on muscles, tendons, and ligaments in many parts of the body.

Aerobic exercises such as jogging or bicycling are recommended for getting in shape prior to and during the season. If you are in good overall condition you will not tire as quickly and will be at less of a risk for injury.
Perform stretching exercises to strengthen the thighs, hamstrings, calves, hips and groin. Squats, toe raises, and exercises to strengthen the ankles and abdominal area will help you keep your balance and perform turns.

Skiing and snowboarding are challenging and require physical skills that are only learned over time and with practice. Learning to ski and snowboard safely is the first step to reducing accidents and injury on the slopes.

Beginners especially should take a few lessons from a ski or snowboard instructor to learn proper techniques, including not only how to stay upright but also how to fall. Bad habits that are learned early on are difficult to reverse later.

Snowboarders generally don't use ski poles, but beginners -- who are more likely to fall -- should consider using them. Once you've had a few lessons, start slowly. Know your skill level and stay within your limitations.

Make sure your equipment is in good condition and is appropriate for your height, weight, and skill level. Boots and bindings should fit snugly and securely.

Wear a helmet designed specifically for skiing or snowboarding. Helmets made for other sports, such as bicycle helmets, do not provide sufficient protection.

Dress properly for winter weather but in clothes that allow you to move -- multiple layers, ski pants and jacket, a turtleneck, gloves and goggles. Wear bright colors so others on the slopes can easily see you.

Snowboarders are also encouraged to wear wrist guards -- many injuries occur when trying to break a fall -- and kneepads.

Ski Responsibly
Like all sports, there is proper etiquette to observe on the ski slopes: