VSR: FAQ for Skiers/Riders

Q#4: How can I help to reduce the risk of injury while skiing?

Subject: Eight Steps to Safer Skiing
Answer: Please review our EIGHT STEPS TO SAFER SKIING.

1) Equipment Selection and Maintenance - At the beginning of each season visit a well-equipped ski shop that maintains a staff qualified to properly service your bindings, tune your skis, and evaluate your ski boot's fit and function. This website, vermontskisafety.com, can be a resource. If the age or condition of your equipment has been giving you any concern, go over the material in the FAQ on used equipment. If you have experienced an unacceptable incidence of inadvertent binding releases, study our FAQ on separating hardware and software problems before your shop visit.

2) Protective Gear - If you decide to purchase a helmet, we recommend you select one that is snow-sport-specific and not only fits properly and is adequately ventilated, but one that does not interfere with vision or the use of goggles and does not impede hearing. Don't let yourself be lulled into a sense of invincibility while using a helmet. When you feel that rush of adrenalin while skiing, ask yourself if you would be doing what you are doing if you were not wearing a helmet. If the answer is NO, you should reconsider the activity. For more information on other protective gear, clothing, and how to rent or buy equipment, visit gearingtogo.com.

3) Awareness Training - Study the strategies outlined in Tips for Knee-Friendly Skiing and, if practical, view the companion video, A Guide to Knee-Friendly Skiing. Check our website for new information at the beginning of each season.

4) Exercise - We are not aware of any proof that an exercise regimen will reduce the risk of the most common or the most serious injuries in skiing. But, in our opinion, you might help to avoid less serious (though none the less painful) muscle strains if you have prepared yourself with skiing-specific exercises. See early season copies of your favorite skiing magazine or talk to a professional trainer before you hit the slopes. You'll also get in more skiing with less fatigue and you will be better prepared for the rare emergency requiring strength or endurance.

5) Rules of the Road - Learn "Your Responsibility Code." It's everywhere at your local ski area. These simple rules will help you learn what to expect of others and what they expect of you.

6) Equipment Orientation - In order to get the most out of your equipment, take a lesson whenever you upgrade. Of most importance is to learn how the equipment will respond during emergency turns and panic stops, and during attempts to recover control after a loss of balance.

7) Fall Training - Learn how to fall, when to fall, and how to stop after a fall. In our opinion, if you do not have a well-practiced plan for the falls you normally experience, imagine the posture of a parachutist just before landing. Keep every joint in your body flexed moderately. Keep legs together. Keep your chin against your chest. Keep arms up and forward. Be prepared to use your arms to protect your head. After the fall, if you don't stop immediately, get into a position that allows you to see where you are going. If you attempt to stop yourself by engaging your skis, resist the instinct to fully straighten your legs. After you stop, try to remember as much as you can about what worked and what didn't, and modify your tactics accordingly. In time your falling technique could become as expert as your skiing.

8) Terrain Analysis - Develop an understanding of your fall zone--the area through which you will probably slide if you fall. Imagine your fall zone as a shadow that you always cast while skiing and make sure it never covers an obstacle. Remember, as you ski faster or the slope becomes steeper or harder, your fall zone will become longer, and when you traverse it may become shorter but because of the uncertainty of your path, it will also become wider. Snow conditions and clothing will also influence how fast and far you will slide. Avoid smooth, shiney outer garments and favor instead textured materials. Don't ski in garments designed for other purposes such as foul weather gear and never use a plastic bag as a temporary poncho while skiing.---CFE