Skiing Safety: 6 Tips for a Safe Vacation on the Slopes

Featured, Fitness & Workouts, Sports & Games — By on January 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I have been skiing for the past 15 years and luckily I’ve never been seriously injured. I am not an expert skier but I’ve had my fair share of interesting experiences. While a lot of mine come off as rather humorous, there is nothing funny about the commonality of serious ski accidents. So, as I can laugh at my own silly misfortune (and feel free to laugh along with me), there are serious lessons to be learned from each mistake I’ve made on the slopes. Here are six takeaways to consider:

1. Sit fully back and relax

When hoisting yourself into the chair lift, make sure you sit all the way back. I tend to get really anxious the moment when the chair lift comes around and it’s my turn to board. One time, because I was preoccupied and fidgety, I didn’t sit back right away. I fell off the lift as soon as it pulled away from the loading area. The chair lift didn’t stop quickly enough and it hit me in the back of the head. Luckily, I only fell like a foot, and the lift wasn’t moving fast, so it wasn’t a hard hit. Now I can laugh about it. However, I was lucky. So literally, get the bar all the way down, sit back, and relax because once you are safely in the chair, you can enjoy the views.

2. Learn how to fall correctly

I suggest taking at least one lesson before you try skiing for the first time. I especially recommend paying close attention to the falling portion of the lesson. I must have drifted off during that part because I cannot, under any circumstances, get up once I fall. I just cannot maneuver these huge sticks attached to my feet enough to lift myself up. I have to take the skis off, which takes a lot of strength when you are down, get up, put them back on, and do that every time I fall. It is extremely frustrating and kind of ruins the fun skiing mood. Knowing how to get up will eliminate a lot of frustration, lost energy, and wasted time.

3. Avoid icy conditions

Maybe well-experienced skiers can still ski when the snow becomes icy but I definitely can’t. I think most beginners probably shouldn’t either. The slopes may still be kept open even if it gets icy and the resort’s staff issues a warning about the conditions, but it’s your choice whether to go up or not. When I was still very much a beginner, never having skied to the top of any mountain, I decided the ice couldn’t stop me and that this would be a good time try going to the top. My friend refused, so I went myself. Not so smart. Like I said, I am not good at falling and getting back up, but I kept falling because of the ice and eventually started sliding down on my butt. People had to come over and help me up every time I fell. Once I had enough, I started crying, took off my skis, and walked down the rest of the mountain, making my friend go collect my gear where I left it. Skating on ice is doable, skiing on ice is not.

4. Read the warning signs

One sign I took for granted was the sign at the end of the chair lift that says “Lift Poles.” This sign does indeed mean to lift your poles once you get close to the ground so they don’t get caught. This is because they will get caught and break, which is what happened to me. And this wasn’t during my early years of skiing, it was recently. I just didn’t lift the poles for some reason, and they snapped in half. Take the signs on the slopes seriously because they alert you about the difficulty of different paths or extreme conditions in certain areas (like ice). Let my experience be a warning that these signs are there for a reason.

5. Fasten your skis securely

I don’t know why skis are so hard to put on. It’s probably so that they won’t fall off easily. You really need to make sure you stomp hard on the clamp that attaches each ski to your boots, and test it out to make sure the skies don’t come off. One time I didn’t test my skis out and just went ahead on the chair lift. When I reached probably the highest point possible, one of my skis fell off. I was with my older cousin, so he helped me get off the lift using only one ski, and then someone brought my missing ski up to me. Somehow I avoided causing serious injuries to others or myself during this incident, but I may not always be that lucky. I have learned to check my skis first to make sure they are securely fastened. You should too.

6. Wear a helmet

If anything, all of my close calls should teach you that skiing, while fun, can be extremely dangerous. There is no difference in a safety risk between skiing and biking, for example, so there is no reason to not wear a helmet. We have all heard or read about news stories involving recent ski accidents with critical outcomes. Don’t wait for it to happen to you or someone close to you. Let my warnings be the last straw; don’t ski without a helmet. I definitely won’t be skiing without one anymore.

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  • Jen says:

    Thankfully, the only one of these lessons I had to learn on my own was to avoid ice. I HATE ice, and I’ve gotten pretty good at seeing it ahead of me on a trail and avoiding it.

    This is great advice though — all of it.

    As for falling and getting up… maybe I can help you with that one. In my first ski lesson, my instructor taught me how to get up, and I’ve never seen anyone else do it this way, though I find it extremely easy (assuming you have enough flexibility to turn out your legs). When you fall, roll onto your stomach facing uphill, with the inside edges of your skis pressed into the snow — heel to heel. Use your arms to push yourself up onto your skis into a backwards snow plow — this keeps you from sliding down hill. Then you can turn yourself around and be on your merry way. No removing your skis. No sliding. No falling again.

    Good luck! And happy skiing!

  • Maggie P says:

    I will DEFINITELY be trying that next time i ski, anything is better than taking my skis off and crying about it. haha!
    Thanks for reading!