How to Stay Safe & Avoid Injuries While Skiing or Snowboarding
So, maybe you’re a skiing or snowboarding fanatic. You head up to the mountains as much as possible in the winter and spend most of your free time on the slopes. Or perhaps you’ve been skiing or snowboarding a few times and enjoy it, but it’s not something you want to do every weekend. Or maybe you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding but want to try it one time. Whatever the case may be, it’s essential to follow safety tips on the slopes whether you’re at the beginner, intermediate, or expert skill level. Anyone, even a professional, can get injured. But when you take precautions, you can stay safe and avoid injuries while skiing or snowboarding.
Skiing and Snowboarding Injury and Accident Statistics
According to the National Ski Areas Association, from 2005 to 2015, there was an average of 50 catastrophic injuries and 38 fatalities each year at U.S. ski resorts. This equates to 0.88 catastrophic injuries and 0.67 fatalities per one million skier/snowboarder visits. The rate of incidents involving non-catastrophic injuries is higher. During the 2010-2011 ski resort season, there were 2.5 reported skiing injuries per 1,000 visits. Snowboarding incidents were more common with 6.1 reported snowboarding injuries per 1,000 visits.
Common Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries
A study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine found 20% of skiing and snowboarding injuries are head injuries. Most head injuries occur when skiers or snowboarders hit an object such as a tree or the ground. 22% of head injuries are severe enough to cause loss of consciousness, concussions or other traumatic brain injuries. Severe head injuries are the leading cause of death to skiers and snowboarders.
There are risks for many other types of injuries as well. Shoulder and elbow injuries are common since skiers and snowboarders frequently put their arms out to break a fall. These falls often result in dislocations, sprains or fractures. Skier’s thumb – a torn ligament in the thumb – is another common injury that occurs when a skier falls onto an outstretched hand while holding a ski pole. Knee injuries are also frequent in both skiers and snowboarders.
The good news is that you can take safety measures to reduce your risk of injury. Wearing a helmet and other protective equipment is one of the most effective ways to prevent skiing and snowboarding injuries. Check out the list below for more safety tips.
Tips to Stay Safe and Avoid Injuries While Skiing or Snowboarding
1) Don’t go alone. It’s imperative you stay with a partner. You’ve heard of the buddy system – now use it. Sure, it can be frustrating if you want to try a more difficult trail and your partner wants to stay at the easier one. You may be tempted to go by yourself. But skiing or snowboarding without other people around is dangerous. If you suffer an injury, you risk hypothermia or even death if you can’t get help on your own. Always have a buddy and stay in each other’s sight. Slow down if you get too far ahead of your partner. If you are with children, supervise them and stay close.
Besides being with at least one other person, tell someone who is not participating about your plan and potential whereabouts. If both you and your partner get injured or don’t return, this person can alert authorities. In addition, carry a cellphone with you so you can call for help in an emergency.
2) Wear protective equipment (and make sure it fits properly). The most important piece of protective gear you can wear is a helmet. But make sure you wear a helmet designed for skiing or snowboarding, not a bicycle helmet. Helmets reduce the risk and severity of head injuries and traumatic brain injuries. The helmet usage rate among skiers and snowboarders has increased over the past 10 years. Studies have found the increased helmet usage rate has led to a decline in the number of serious head injuries. Besides a helmet, it’s important to wear the following:
- Elbow and knee pads
- Wrist guards (for snowboarders)
- Fitted boots and bindings
3) Wear warm clothing. It’s easy to lose track of time and not worry about being cold if you are having fun. But being outside in the cold for too long without proper clothing may lead to frostbite. Warm clothing will help your body maintain a healthy temperature. Clothing should be loose so you have the flexibility to move freely. Wear layers and waterproof materials.
4) Follow the rules and use proper technique. Take lessons from a certified instructor if you’re a beginner. Even if you’ve been skiing or snowboarding before, it doesn’t hurt to take a refresher course. Learn how to ski and snowboard correctly so you can avoid accidents. An instructor will teach you the safest way to fall. You will also learn about ski lift safety and the proper way to get on and off the lift. Always practice etiquette and respect others, stay in control and stop in a safe place. You don’t want to be that person who stops in the middle of the slope.
5) Be aware of your surroundings. Before and while heading down the mountain, scan the area for hazards like rocks, trees and patches of ice. Make sure you don’t ski or snowboard in the direction of these hazards (because running into them would really hurt!) You can stay even more aware on the slopes by avoiding distracting behaviors like texting or listening to music on headphones. In addition, follow the marked trails. These trails are the safest. Avoid potential avalanche areas and don’t go into a dangerous or unmarked area (no matter how cool it looks). These areas are closed off for a reason.
6) Know your limits. Don’t try a difficult slope if you aren’t ready for it. Naturally, sometimes people feel the need to keep up with their friends or even show off. But you’d be endangering both yourself and others if you go beyond your skill level. If you are a beginner, master the easy slopes before you move to the more challenging slopes. Pay attention to your body as well. If something hurts or if you are tired, stop. You don’t want to risk taking another run and overexerting yourself. It’s okay to call it a day and go back to the lodge to relax. (The lodge does have hot chocolate and comfy chairs by the fireplace, after all.)
7) Do warm up exercises. Muscles get tighter in cold weather, and tight muscles are more prone to injury. Since you will be outside in the chilly air, it’s important to loosen up your muscles. Exercising before your first run will help reduce your injury risk.
*Before you even go skiing or snowboarding, make sure you are in good physical condition.
8) Drink water. Dehydration is dangerous. It’s crucial to drink plenty of water before, during and after skiing or snowboarding. The body requires more water when you are physically active and at high-altitude, so make sure you increase your water intake.
Warning Signs of a Traumatic Brain Injury Sustained While Skiing or Snowboarding
Learn the symptoms of injuries and frostbite before you hit the slopes. Since head injuries are some of the most serious types of injuries, it’s important to know the signs of a head and brain injury. If you or your partner falls, check for signs of a traumatic brain injury. Common brain injury symptoms include:
- Blurred Vision
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Slurred Speech
If you notice any of the above symptoms in yourself or your partner, get help immediately. Don’t refuse medical attention, even if you feel fine. After a brain injury, you may have a “lucid interval” and think you are okay. Let paramedics evaluate you anyway. It could be the difference between life and death.
Skiing and Snowboarding Injury Attorneys
Caring for injuries is expensive. A study in 1996 found the average cost of inpatient treatment of skiing injuries in children was $22,000 per patient. The total cost of an injury may even be higher for adults as they have to account for any lost wages as well as medical costs. Serious injuries like traumatic brain injuries can be even more costly. Although you can take precautions to avoid injuries while skiing or snowboarding, some injuries occur because of negligence or recklessness by another party. Unfortunately, these injuries are not always preventable.
If you sustained an injury due to the fault of another party, whether it’s from defective equipment or negligent behavior, you deserve compensation. But, laws regarding skiing and snowboarding accidents can be complex. Some laws and waivers exempt ski resorts from liability in the event you are injured. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury or any other type of injury while skiing or snowboarding, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights. An attorney at Kane & Silverman in Philadelphia, PA and Marlton, NJ will evaluate your claim for free. Our injury lawyers have experience in cases involving traumatic brain injuries. Do not hesitate to contact us at 215-232-1000 or fill out our contact form online.