Skiing and Snowboarding
Use your head
According to the Canadian Ski Patrol, brain injury is the leading cause of disability and death among adults under 45. Jahn Davis, an emergency medical technician, and ski patroller based in Salt Lake, Utah, says the helmet issue is a bit of a no-brainer. ‘Skiing is a fast sport and head injuries can occur at any time. Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, head protection is a must.’
Accidents don’t just occur at high speeds: actress Natasha Richardson’s tragic accident on a beginner slope in Mt. Tremblant last year prompted prominent ski resort operator Intrawest to implement a mandatory helmet rule.
Learn to fall
Surprisingly, it’s not avoiding falls that will help prevent injury while skiing and snowboarding. ‘Each fall is a teachable moment,’ says Davis. ‘The key lessons are how not to over-correct, attempt to break the fall or try to stay standing on your skis.’ If a skier tries too hard to stay upright, Davis says, the knee bears the brunt of the body’s weight, gravity and speed. ‘In a split second, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) breaks, strains or tears.’
Following the rules may not always be thrilling, but it can keep you safe. ‘Ducking boundary ropes can lead to skiers and snowboarders getting into extremely dangerous terrain,’ says Davis. ‘Ski patrollers mark boundaries near unsafe slopes and windblown aspects’usually north facing.’
Be cognizant of avalanche potential in the area you’re skiing in, too, by heeding warnings and observing conditions. ‘Avalanche dangers are higher during and right after snowfalls. Any slope greater than 30 degrees can have significant avalanche risks ‘ following posted signs will keep skiers safe.’
If you can’t resist the lure of the out-of-bounds ski or snowboard adventure’even if this story about a couple who were lost in an out-of-bounds ski area doesn’t deter you ‘ or you want to take extra precautions, invest in an avalanche beacon‘a device that sends out radio signals that can help authorities locate you while buried under snow. Finally, educate yourself about avalanche safety.
Trail blaze with caution
As with skiing and snowboarding, going off the beaten path when snowshoeing has its dangers. When charting a new course, always bring a map and compass. Also, keep an eye on the sky or your watch and head for home base well before daylight starts to wane. Finally, learn as much as you can about your trail before you go out.