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Ski Safety – How to reduce the risks of injury while skiing or riding

Arialle Hess
There is always that same question you hear circulating around townies that never make it to the mountains. “Is skiing dangerous?” When I hear that, I internally respond with “well, is driving a car dangerous?” Your answer is subjective. Subjective to what you have experienced, what you have saw or heard on the news, and what you know and put into practice.
 
This article isn’t to argue a solid “yes” or “no”. The reality of recreational sports, as with driving a car, is that you will be subject to some risk. The goal is to educate yourself and implement slope safety procedures, thus reducing your risk to injury.
 
Ski Patrol might seem like fun suckers to teenage shredders, but they argue that you can have loads more fun when you aren’t in the patrol hut with a broken arm. Solid point. Each skier and rider is responsible for his or her own safety whether you are a novice or expert. Below are five ski and snowboard safety tips to keep at hand whenever you hit the slopes.
 
Take a Lesson
If you are a beginner, a lesson is a great way to be safely introduced to skiing or riding. Although you might just want to chase that giddiness, it pays to learn a thing or two before your fun streak comes to an abrupt end. The certified instructors will teach you the essentials, like how to stop, knowing well that you will probably fall while learning how to master the carve turn. The important thing is that you have the essentials to fall back on in case your comfort zone starts getting pushed passed its healthy limits.
 
Proper Equipment
Taking your grandpa's skis from the 60's to go shredding with your friends is not the best plan of action. Just because the boot fits, doesn’t mean the logic does. My wool shirt fits the same year round, but it doesn’t mean I wear it in the summer. There is a load of safety technology that goes into ski equipment and if you are not well versed in this area, please take it to your local ski shop to have a trained professional test and tune it. Rental shops at mountain resorts receive new inventory every season, so if you don’t own your own equipment, think about renting proper equipment for the day. They can set you up with the correct ski size, releasing of the bindings, and of course a helmet, all to reduce injury, because let’s face it, you will probably take a spill or two while learning how to maneuver those giant planks strapped to your feet.
 
Comfort Zone Control
Your comfort zone is normally quite small when first starting out with anything. It’s all new to you. The more you progress, the larger your comfort zone becomes, however, you will not learn if you constantly throw yourself into situations that are way above your ability. You just end up injured. Naturally, there is going to be some trial and error while pushing your comfort zone boundaries, however, being able to dial back in to your comfort zone skill set can help reduce risk dramatically. Instead of being out of your element and assuming high risk, utilizing your comfort zone skill set can help you safely push those boundaries with a relatively low injury risk.
 
Communication
Communication is a two way street that consists of both verbal and nonverbal cues. At a ski resort, the majority of communication is for your safety. When you are on the slopes, make sure to pay attention to all signs; they are not there for decoration. Adhere to employees’ instructions in the lift line; they are responsible for the organization of hundreds, maybe thousands, of guests that need to safely get up the mountain, you included. If you do need a specific line, i.e. mogul runs or terrain park features, always use verbal communication to let others know that you are dropping in. Reciprocate that communication by actively listening, too.
 
Awareness
Always be aware of your surroundings. It’s no crime to stand at the top, peer down to find the line of your choice and plan it out perfectly, but the reality is, that clear line might clog up in a matter of seconds. All skiers and riders downhill/ahead of you have the right of way and the slopes are filled with varying abilities of speed, some may even stop for a break, so always be aware of movement around you and don’t get lost in that tunnel vision of your chosen line. Remember: just because you chose it, doesn’t mean you own it.
 
Resort employees work hard in keeping their guests safe, now you can play a role in maintaining it. Sharing this knowledge can keep others safe, as well as reassure first-timers that this sport isn’t as daunting to try when you take the proper precautions. Be sure to implement slope safety into your alpine adventures and practice them on the regular. And of course, you now have a loaded answer to anyone who asks you “is skiing dangerous?”

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