Skiing 101: Elevate Your Safety on the Slopes

Utah has some of the best ski slopes in the U.S. But even Ogden’s beginner-friendly slopes can be dangerous. A strong collision or an off-piste accident can rough you up big time, and injuries might require more than a few stitches or simple oral surgery.

Wear the Gear

Whether you’re a beginner running the greens or an expert speeding through double diamonds, safety gear is essential. One in five ski accidents in the U.S. involve head injuries, and most resorts won’t let you take to the slopes without a helmet. If you don’t have your own gear, most resorts will gladly rent you a set. Renting is preferable to borrowing, unless you have a friend who has the same proportions.

While a little wiggle is okay in your vest and other protective gear—your boots should be snug and comfortable. A good fit gives you more control and maneuverability, allowing you to avoid hazards or fellow skiers with ease. If you want to document your adventure, opt for a GoPro or attached camera. Skiing with a selfie stick will limit your maneuverability and tag you as a veritable beginner.

Note Those Diamonds

Try to ski on slopes that fit your skill level. The circles, squares, and diamonds are there for a reason. And not a few beginners get themselves (and other skiers) in trouble for skiing above their level. Stay in your comfort zone and get a few lessons before moving to harder areas.

Do Some Cardio

Skiing may be fun, but it also requires a lot of energy. The fitter you are, the longer you can stay on the slopes. Try to exercise regularly a few months before your trip to the slopes. Regular physical activity primes your musculature, giving you more control of your body and decreasing the chances of injuries. Skiing involves all the muscles in your legs, particularly the hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and gluteal muscles.

Constant shifts and balancing will also put your core through the wringer, so add some planks and crunches to your workouts. Don’t try for another run if you’re tired. Exhaustion slows down your reaction time and increases the chances of accidents. Gunning for a few extra minutes on the slopes can take you out for the season (or longer) with an injury.

Ski with a Buddy

Skiing with a buddy is safer and more fun. Take turns skiing a slope and contact each other on the radio to monitor each other’s progress. While pairing up doesn’t make the slopes any safer, it does allow you or your partner to report/respond to an accident quicker if it does happen.

Drink Lots of Water

Cold temperatures and altitude trick your body into not feeling thirst. You might not feel you need to drink that water, but you can easily get dehydrated on the slopes. Air at high altitudes is particularly dry. Even if you don’t sweat, you lose a lot of moisture by just breathing. Your body also burns through your stores of fat, trying to maintain its core temperature in the cold. You might need to add a bit more carbs into your diet or eat and drink more often in between breaks.

Set Your Pace

The slopes are not for racing. Utah might have hosted the Olympics, but you’re not racing for time on your runs. Skiers ahead of you have the right-of-way, and trying to catch up/overtake them can lead to horrible and painful mishaps. Stick to a steady pace and just enjoy the slopes without rushing.

Don’t Go Off-piste

Trails are marked for a reason, and leaving them exposes you to a lot of hazards. The usual ski trails are maintained regularly, ensuring the right depth of snow to avoid accidents. Outside the trail, you can find outcroppings and rough tree lines that require expert maneuvering and a bit of luck to avoid. Renowned Formula 1 racer, Michael Schumacher, suffered an accident while crossing ski lanes. He suffered severe head injuries that left him in a vegetative state since his accident in 2013.

Stay Alert

Keeping your wits about you can give you a few extra seconds to avoid oncoming hazards. Anything can happen on the slope, and your safety preparations don’t mean much to an unruly skier. Note your surroundings but try to keep your eyes focused 20 to 30 yards ahead of you. This way, you’ll get a bigger picture of the slope and see oncoming hazards faster.

Having fun on the slopes doesn’t mean forgetting about safety. Wear the gear, know your limits, and stay focused when you’re going 20 to 40 miles an hour.

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