Ski Season Safety

SkierSki season is here once again with the scheduled opening of the Arizona Snowbowl tomorrow, December 17th!  While I’ve been skiing, both alpine and cross country for the past 35 years, this is my year to learn how to snowboard!  With that prospect comes the realization that I’m going to do a lot of falling and with that the potential for injury.  But how dangerous is skiing and boarding?   The results might surprise you.

Despite the high profile ski related deaths of celebrities over the past several years, only about 40 skiers on average die on the slopes each year, with even fewer borders meeting that fate.  Perhaps it’s what doesn’t kill you that we need to worry about.  Again, the reality is that with improvements in equipment injuries have been cut in half during the time that I first learned how to ski.

In an article published in the November 2009 issue of Sports Health:  A Multidisciplinary Approach, researchers who have studied skiing injuries for nearly 40 years debunk 12 myths about skiing injuries.  Some highlights include:

1. Myth: Skiing is among the most dangerous activities.
2. Myth: Buying new ski equipment is safer than renting.
3. Myth: Exercise can prevent skiing injuries
4. Myth: If you think you’re going to fall, just relax.
5. Myth: Formal ski instruction will make you safer.
6. Myth:  Children need plenty of room in ski boots for their growing feet.

Yet, there are some common factors to skiing injuries.  A study of risk factors was published in the September issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.  Some of the findings might surprise you and others are pretty obvious.

Factors in the “pretty obvious” category are:

1. Male skiers between 18 and 50 years old are most likely to be injured, especially those who are eager to get into challenging terrain like moguls and jumps (who would have guessed….)
2.  Drug use combined with skiing increases your risk of injury (I’m shocked….!)

I do find the factors that follow interesting because at first glance the risks might not be so obvious.

3.  Many injuries actually occurred while the skier was moving slowly.
4. Using new ski equipment
5. Skiing on “old” snow.
6.  Many injuries occurred late in the day when the skier was fatigued.

So if you’re planning to hit the slopes tomorrow, here are some things you can do to improve your safety.

1.  Have your equipment professionally fitted and set.  Don’t think that you can re-set your binding release settings yourself.
2. Warm up at the beginning of the day with some easy runs.
3. Rest when you are tired and fatigued and try to avoid that “one last run” mentality when your body says it’s time to hit the lodge for some hot chocolate.
4.  Probably most importantly, learn how to fall.

Yup, it’s that last one that I’m not looking forward to for myself in learning how to snowboard – but isn’t that what snow is all about?  It’s about getting down in it and rolling around!   Yeah, that’s what I’ll try to remember with each fall – right after the “Ouch”!

– Paul Kulpinski, LMT


British Journal of Sports Medicine

Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach

Sports Medicine

Ski Knees

New York Times


About Paul Kulpinski, LMT

Paul Kulpinski is a licensed massage therapist, holistic wellness coach and co-founder of Mountain Waves Healing Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona with over 15 years experience in helping people achieve their optimum state of well being. Information contained in this blog should not be taken as medical advice. Readers are advised to validate the information presented here with other sources including your personal physician for information specific to you.
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