5 real-life ‘expert’ safety tips to learn while skiing

If you see lift tickets in the window in a ski resort or in an ad for ski equipment, they should come with a safety tip – even if the resorts don’t pass the US life-guarding exam. From improving your climb-down skills to making sure you know how to handle and retrieve your skis, there are some things you must know if you really want to get to the top of those lifts faster and safely. Answering these five questions will help you save lives.

1. What Are Your Mountain Climbing Skills?

If you feel comfortable moving your hips instead of using your core muscles to hold yourself steady, you may not have sufficient gymnastic skills to safely scale the mountain. If you need to add balance, know the speed/pace where you’ll safely be able to swing your back and your balance on a single bound – this includes getting to the bottom of the mountain safely in 30 seconds.

2. Will You Be Able to Handle and Resume Your Fall If You Fall?

This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when climbing equipment, and it causes a disproportionate amount of injuries and fatalities. Over time, your skin will naturally adapt to falling in different ways, so some people will be able to comfortably fall on a “slide,” while others who are more susceptible to speed-related falls will be able to fall from a “canopy” like feature.

As far as rescue gear, skiing is also a veritable vehicle of last resort, making it especially dangerous. Headband helmets, when wearing a snowmobile helmet is enough to make snowmobilers highly visible to people below, is extremely uncommon in skiing. Plus, the après-ski are a very safe option to fall with, since you can usually get a few minutes of alcohol that you can use to steady yourself.

In the best event, the people in your group will be able to rescue you while you are not hurt, especially if your group is strong enough. In the worst case, if someone falls in and can’t move, it’s a rescue of the backside of the ski hill, which could cause an avalanche or other hazardous situation.

3. Will You Avoid Head-Strikes During Your Fall?

If you use your core muscles to stabilize yourself while you’re leaning over the side of the mountain and your hips are at a 45 degree angle and you don’t use other muscles or protections, the head can effectively give out during a fall. Head-strikes can prevent you from falling onto the ground below, and they can cause injury.

My stepson learned how to climb “oath” in preparation for going cliff jumping, but didn’t know how to keep his head just in front of his body when he was walking at the bottom of a run. If he fell, he could have easily have struck his head, causing paralysis from the head injury. He had to stop and take an Uber all the way back down the mountain, which put a huge burden on him at the end of the day.

4. How Much Comfort Is Too Much Comfort?

Lift tickets and ski equipment are like a luxury product. While you don’t want to get hurt while skiing or snowboarding, you don’t want to risk major injury because you want to enjoy something you love.

Before skiing, drink some water before you go on the slopes, preferably around 5pm while everyone else is already chugging water. Skiers and snowboarders who drink alcohol or coffee before they leave the house are more likely to run into trouble at the mountain, and can injure themselves even more severely by not wearing correct clothing.

5. How Much will It Cost to Get Help?

With ski lifts being extremely expensive, and the typical customer paying roughly $55 at certain ski resorts, you may want to research one of the local non-profit mountain rescues which help support rescues when possible.

It can also be helpful to get into the habit of calling someone if you fall. Yes, some people don’t want to do it, but in extreme situations, just getting up and calling for help and getting moving can save lives.

At a ski resort it may be a matter of life and death.

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