11 Tips To Reduce Risks Of Ski Injury

Feb 09, 2010 38 Comments by
Injury Risk

Know What Lies Beneath: The Risks Of Injury Can be Obscured

The risk of ski or snowboard injury is currently around 1 in 1,000 skiers per day. Like many statistics this hides a lot.  The risk of injury is significant, but actually half what it was twenty years ago. But it’s my firm view, since skiing with many groups of people, that there are still those people who are much more likely to be involved in injury than others. You probably know them.

This article is about avoiding injury, and much less about the gear you can buy to protect yourself. Wear a helmet — for sure. But engage what’s inside it to save you, much more than relying on the plastic surrounding it.

My interest in sports injury goes back to the days not long after I took up paragliding. It has therefore been for twenty years that I have studied and learnt the importance of one’s own mental state for enhancing personal safety. Our thoughts take on a critical significance when managing risk. Ignore the high risk factors and eventually it will lead to injury, or fatality. This is true  in all adventure sports from base jumping to motor sports.

Applying risk assessment sounds as dull as ditch water — eapcially when you are focused on maximising ski holiday fun. But if you invest a few moments to ensure that the most fabulous days of our lives in the mountains are low risk  – you could save pain and hours, or months, being patched up in hospital.

The recent higher number of accidents, and fatalities, in Bulgaria this season highlight the risks that some expert skiiers choose to take. But were they chosen in the knowledge of the full facts available? Expert or beginner we should assess all the risks — from weather conditions and weather forecast, our physical condition to snow type, avalanche warnings to survival equipment.

Please invest a few moments reading my top eleven ski and snowboard injury avoidance tips:

1.  Positive Mental State

Has your partner pressurised you  to ski? Are you anxious about the thought of hitting the slopes? If this is you, then only go skiing when you are relaxed. Never ski when overly stressed — and certainly not when over tired. Recognise your mental state. Best to have one day off, than spend the next six months out of action. Always learn from a professional instructor. Is this your ever enthusiastic partner? Almost definitely he/she is unlikely to be equipped with the skills to help you progress you. The psychological process of learning to ski or snowboard should be based on desire — not coercion.

2. End Of The Day “Last Run”

Make your last run of the day a really good one. One where you could do more. Not a time where you are struggling and wishing that you were safely ensconced in the apres ski bar… rather than half way up the mountain. Pushing yourself outside safe limits, causes your risk of injury to soar. That last ski run is proven to be one of the biggest risks of the sport.

3.  Fitness

Be honest with yourself and your own fitness levels. If you are reading this, and you still have a week or two to go before leaving for the resort, then it’s not too late to go jogging or cycling. These are both effective exercises that will increase your on piste stamina and enjoyment.

4.  Learn The Technique for Different Snow Conditions

Most skiiers and boarders are scared of ice. The psychological and physiological tension that the piercing screech of skis and snowboards on ice fill most with fear. This need not be the case: grab a good instructor and you’ll learn how to deal with the different types of snow. Remember that most professional downhill competitions are held on ice. You too can learn to not fear the ice.

5.  Have The Correct Gear: Keep It Serviced

If your boots are over ten years old, you should be seriously thinking of confining them to the plastic ski boot graveyard of the past. Wear a helmet. For snowboarding; protective back, wrist, head…. protective everything is best for learning.

Service your board and skis every seven days for maximum control, and fun. You’ll find waxing means less need to walk or poll on the flat bits. It means much more feel. Freshly sharp ebededges increase control. Any damage should be repaired immediately. Don’t lie about your weight when hiring skis! The weight setting affects how your skis will come off to avoid injury.

6. Don’t Show Off For The Camera Or For Friends

If you are naturally competitive, you could feel peer pressure to take the lift to pistes that you are not yet ready for. Politely decline the offer. Want to show off making jumps for the camera? Check out you tube videos for the crashes that so inevitably follow action for camera ready friends. Carshes happen because the camera is there. Also see point 2 above.

7. Learn How To Fall

Relax and if on skis, keep your knees together. Cruciate ligament kness injury is the biggest problem in skiing. Fractures are a lot less common these days with modern skis, boots and bindings.

8. Understand Piste Etiquette

Rest at the side of the piste. If you snowboard, avoid resting just on the fall line, in the middle of the piste. You are risking collision. Look up the hill when joining a piste lower down. Overtaking skiier/boarder keeps clear.

9.  Ski Like A Good Motorcyclist

Anticipate the worst. Leave a wide margin in case the person near to you falls. Look ahead and around, rather than at your skis. It will help your skiing too.

10. Off Piste: Understand The Risks

Never go of piste in a new resort without a fully qualified guide and then only with all the gear such as shovel and transponders. If a piste is closed, it’s for a good reason.

11. Trees: Avoid Them

A helmet is all good. But avoiding the risk of hurting your head is the priority. Most serious injuries and fatalities, outside avalanches, involve hitting trees or a fixed object. Think about the terrain and what you’ll hit if you fall.

Conclusion

Bansko is not the ideal off piste training ground. Try the US or the Alps to gain experience. Arguably Pamporovo, Borovets and Panichishte are better for this. Stay safe. Inspect the qualifications of anyone acting as an off piste guide. Take responsibility. Check weather forecast carefully and heed avalanche risk warnings.

Stay safe this winter season. If you have any comments on ski/board safety please make them below.

Tip Of The Day

It’s BanskoBlog’s first birthday party on Friday 19th February. I’ve teamed up with JJ Murphy’s in Bansko — who are also one year old. We have the amazing Ani Lozanova and her band rocking us through the night. Get there early and subscribe for a free beer that evening  and your 15% off family dining at JJ Murphy’s.

Skiing & Snowboarding


About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

38 Responses to “11 Tips To Reduce Risks Of Ski Injury”

  1. David Rogers says:

    My children have all gone skiing in Europe, but I think its something that is going to pass me by. I’m too much of a wimp and I’ve never understood the thrill of travelling fast, at the mercy of the elements! But sound risk assessment advice.

  2. thatgirlisfunny says:

    Aren't you lucky to be living so near to a ski slope? And I fancied you had a Bulgarian accent not a British one. Lovely to see you LIVE on video. I'm jealous of you going off skiing! Good advice about the trees. Avoid trees at all costs! Well done on the safety tips. Skiers can be in for nasty – and sometimes fatal – surprises. Have fun!

  3. Rich Hill says:

    Larry,

    These are all great tips for staying safe in this fine sport.
    Oh if I was only 40 years younger I would take you up on some of these ideas.
    I suspect that avoiding trees should go right along with avoiding alcohol on the slopes also.
    This is a great blog!
    Rich

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Rich,

      Thank you for your kind comments!

      Achohol is a surpisingly small risk. Drugs are worse according ot the accident stats. In fact one of the main causes of injury is when people fall they don;t know how to fall. They try and stop falling, hurting themselves in the process.

      Rather bizarrely, the best advice is to fall like a drunk … i.e just relax! On a sloping piste a fall should be a non event. Try not to fight the fall – that's when the knee gets injured for skiiers.

      Unfortunately most ski schools can't teach how people to fall — something to do with legal liability… especially in the US. Now back to add this to the article. Thank You, Lance

  4. Corinne Edwards says:

    This is the best article, with the most down to earth advice, I have read.

    This quote from the article applies in many life situations.

    " Pushing yourself outside safe limits, causes your risk of injury to soar. That last ski run is proven to be one of the biggest risks of the sport."

    ISN'T THIS TRUE WITH EVERYTHING? Pushing yourself with that last task you are really too tired for can lead to so many mistakes.

  5. Bruce says:

    I am not familiar with Bansko, but I fell on a run in Vermont, USA that was above my skill level and was hurt badly enough I had to stay in the lodge the remainder of the vacation and was banged up for several weeks after.
    I concur with knowing your skills, understanding the terrain, and not pushing it on the first, last or any run you make. I paid a small price for my mistake. I hope others will take your advice and pay no price except the price of a lift ticket.

  6. Michelle VAndepas says:

    I just went skiing for the first time in 10 years – I was worried about injury, breaking something, but i took it very easy, stayed on easy slopes and quit early. I had such a great time that i'm going again next weekend.
    Have fun!

  7. Raymond Chua says:

    I never ski before but found out from this post that there are quite a lot of things to be learned.

  8. Amy LeForge says:

    My first reaction when seeing your post title was "Bwahahahaha!" I needed that about 2 weeks ago, right before I fell down and hurt my knee skiing. Sadly, it wasn't even a dramatic fall. I was near the bottom of the beginner hill and got going too fast. Then a child ran me over. We're still waiting for the swelling to go down so we can get an MRI.

    Am definitely stumbling this post so I can check it if I ever go skiing again.

    Bwahahahahahaaaaa.

    Maybe I'll stick to cross-country.

  9. Stefan says:

    Excellent post, Lance. Very informative.

  10. Andrew@BloggingGuide says:

    I've never fancied skiing. I think I would quite like the after ski events! Perhaps I should just visit and not ski. Just people watch – do people do that?

    But when there – I could be tempted I suppose!

    Andrew

  11. Joel says:

    I've been snowboarding a few times and while I've stuck to the gentle practice slopes this is great advice. I uses to fly around Europe for work and always came back via Brussels. At least one person on each plane had a broken leg or neck in a brace after coming from one of the skiing destinations. It never put me off though and I'd love to do it again sometime!

  12. Tyrone says:

    I've been to trekking and I've always had because I enjoy being in the outdoors although not much experience in skiing as I stayed and visited mostly to tropical places. Well, I heard this sport has been considered one of the most dangerous sport and thanks for sharing helpful tips to avoid these risks when we ski again. :)

  13. Eat Smart Age Smart says:

    Lance,

    There are all really good points to keep in mind and I do hope that you'll recover soon.

    I'm not much of skier … but I do share your concerns about protecting ourselves against sports injury.

    I could not agree with you more!

    Krizia

  14. Timmy says:

    hi LAnce, my friend Cheryl showed me her blog, which being a skier my attention fell to your blog. Good tips. I liked #1 best. Being wary of tiredness, or agitation. In general its hard to be in a bad mood when your on the slopes, I mean there's a reason why we all go out in sub-freezing temperatures. Like the sound of the mountain when you stop and nobody is there, sounds just like that!!!! Then there is the thrill of almost flying. which brings me to tip #2, I will keep in mind to get my last chair in a controlled pace. I have been know to seriously race and gleefully get one more run in. Thanks for the blog, hope to go to Europe and ski some day, Peace

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Timmy,

      Having just got down from the mountain and finished my report, I so agree with your thing about bad mood. Recently i met a guy in a chair lift, we then had an great lunch , a couple of nights out and several mornings skiing together. Such good times are had in the mountain… and yes i agree the sound of nothing in the mountains is a unqiue senasation that i love as well. Do come to Europe to ski, but I really want ot ski the champagne powder of the US and Canada one day soon.

  15. Lisa says:

    Hi Lance — very helpful information, which I am going to share with my 14-year-old son, and all of his friends, who are prone to injury because they are 14 and lack the ability to use good judgement, and think they are invincible.

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Lisa,

      thank you for your comment. In fact i ommitted your point about children. Here its about training and guidance…. over confidence in children is something that many parents have to deal with.

  16. The Niche Think Tank says:

    This is an awesome blog. Great post about etiquette and safety, especially for newbies like me. Just started snowboarding last year and some of these tips make perfect sense but not always on themind when on he slope. thanks for sharing..

    • LanceNelson says:

      Thank you. And just today i was reminded by a learner snowboard who injurd herself, that too many people have unrealsitic epectations of their progress. It takes time, so enjoy your learning curve.

  17. Antti Kokkonen says:

    I only go skiing about once a year and it usually takes a little while to get used to the ride again. No injuries in 20+ years :) Managed that with three tips: keep it safe (for you and others), know the rules and understand you are not alone in there, and lastly – know your skills – it's totally fine to go down the easy route and skip the jumps.

  18. Debbie says:

    I've always thought it would be fun to learn to ski, however I'm not real big on high places. I do have children that ski since we live in Colorado. Those are great tips you give. My daughter and son-in-law are taking there 4 year old up this week end to see how she likes sking. She loves snow and outside, soI'm real excited to see how she does. I will pass on your tips to them. I would have to learn number 7 first. "Learn how to Fall" Thanks Lance and I'll keep you posted on how the 4 year does.

    Debbie

  19. Teagan says:

    Okay, I have to admit I laughed when I read the "Trees – Avoid them". Yeah, that's good advice for anybody! Running into a tree is hard on a body.

    And that "Positive Mental State" can apply to anything, not just on the ski slopes. There's just a lot of the tips that could be adapted and used in about any life situation.

    I'll confess, I'm not a skier, but I enjoyed the post. Lots of good advice on or off the slopes!

  20. Robb Sutton says:

    All of these apply to my mountain biking as well. We go off and do some crazy drops and DH runs and it never fails…the "one more run" always ends up bad when tired.

    Great post…wish we got enough snow here that I could board all the time.

  21. Keller Hawthorne says:

    I've never skied before – embarrassing, but true. I've always want to try it. It sounds like a wild time. As a child I was an avid sled rider though! Great tips – I will refer back to this when I finally get myself on the slopes.

  22. Benjamin says:

    Hi Lance,

    Not being a skier, myself, I have to say number 1 and number 6 stand out.

    Positive mindset is crucial in everything… and showing off is almost always a great way to get hurt and look stupid… at least in my experience… :-)

    A very nice post!

    keep smiling,

    Ben

  23. Jeff Kay says:

    Nice article. And you could easily reconfigure it, for a guest post maybe, as "What Skiing Can Teach You About Blogging." Or something along those lines.

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Jeff, I like that idea and once the ski season is over i will write this one. In fact a Bulgarian entrpreneur web site has contacted me — so this could be the perfect guest article as well.

      thanks again, Lance

  24. Phil says:

    Hi Lance,

    your article reminds me that I always wanted to learn this. Moving from the Rhine area in Germany (which is closer to the north-sea) to Bavaria and having only three hours to travel to the Alps I haven't made it yet to book a ski class. Your post inspires me to do so, because currently we have so much snow here in Germany that I feel like I want to start something with it.

    When I do so I will definitely come back to this post to learn safety instructions from a pro! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  25. LanceNelson says:

    Hi Phil,

    Thank you for your comment, I do hope you can get out skiing. You have so many lovely mountains there and in Austria to the south. I think skiing is for everyone and it can feel as natural as walking. The sensation of a nice carving tunr or just enjoing excercise in fresh air with friends is something i believe everyone should have a chance to ski if at all possible.

    Please let me know how you get on!

  26. Birney Summers says:

    I've done a lot of no helmet cross country skiing, without getting hurt. But, more equipment seems to be required for down hill safety. Please don't damage the trees.

  27. Wayne says:

    Lance

    I am hoping that you could comment further. You comment that the risk of injury is 1 per 1000 skier days. Are you aware of any sources that would support that statistic? Where might I find corroboration for your statement?

    Many thanks.

  28. Jan-queenofkaos says:

    Hi Lance, great safety tips! I would love to learn to snowboard but must admit, I've always had a fear of downhill anything. My son snowboards but does not wear a helmet. Do you have any advice or resources that I could point him to? He's almost 20 so I can't run around behind him making him wear it :0)

    His girlfriend cracked a wrist bone about a month ago from a fall. I don't think there was much that could have been done, possibly some education about the proper way to fall.

  29. Damian says:

    Hi Lance – nice work!
    great site, good article :)

    I agree – trees can be pretty tough things sometimes!
    Saying that I haven’t hit one yet!

    I’m a physio so I’m biased toward point 3 – fitness. When I’ve been on ski trips before most of my friends have suffered from achey calf’s and quads mostly. There’s always the odd back twinge too and the best way of pre-emptying these problems is to get conditioned pre-trip…
    …at least that way I can be in the bar too rather than smashing up my mates and family rubbing, stretching, mobilising and manipulating…..

    I agree about the CV stuff – getting your basic lung capacity up – esp in the mountains where the air is “thinner” (less O2 = harder to breathe/tire faster). Low impact such as cycling/walking/swimming should be more than adequate (the latter is preferable as the water pressure “trains” your lungs more).

    Other points to consider:

    STRENGTH:
    I run classes for patients and these involve loads of leg conditioning. I loved doing these before ski trips (as did my patients) because it really improves your stamina – the last 16km run to town is a walk in the park. There’s loads of exercises you could do but the core ones should involve squats, lunges and calf raises. You don’t have to use any weights cuz your body weight is enough – just make sure that your technique is good and that you’re not pushing into “bad” pain (muscle pain and stiffness should be expected – especially for the first week! – rather at home pre trip than on it and stopping you from getting those extra runs in).

    BACK
    Back mobility is a must too – to make sure that your muscles don’t spasm too much. I’m sure you could google some simple exercise that would involve “lumbar flexion, extension and rotation” – again keep it pain free and seek medical/physio advice if symptoms occur.

    CORE
    google it, grab a gym ball, sit on it when you’re watching TV and do exercises in the ads – simple!

    STRETCH
    well important! especially targeting an old injury. Before, During, After. Hold for 30 secs + (2 secs does bugger all). How many of you have had sore calf’s for the first few days??? (top tip – the calf has 2 muscles – “soleus” and “gastrocnemius”….google and stretch both of them!).

    HEAT
    If you’re responding well to stretching – you’ll love heat. hot water bottle, wheat bag, shower head, bath, sauna…………….get it on and keep it on – watch out for burns!!

    Hope that helps. The great thing about it is that you can do all these at home or at work (if you don’t mind looking like a bit of a plonker- mind you better to look like a doosch beforehand rather than coming back with an injury – or even worse – picking it up on your first day!).

    Damian

  30. LanceNelson says:

    Hi Damian,

    thank you so much for this advice. From a physio I think people would be well advised to take them all on board. Build strength before you go will pay dividends… I will be incuding these tips for next season's guide… I'll be working on my back – which seized for the best part of three days and my stiffnes there seriously impeded further carving progress!

    Anyone got their own pre and post ski fitness programme they can recommend?

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