“Skiing is the only sport where you spend an arm and a leg to break an arm and a leg”.
― Author unknown
Your winter holidays may be the most exciting time in the whole year. If you like winter sports and snowy landscapes and you're not that much into beaches and high temperatures, you're probably waiting for your ski holidays all year long. And you probably like them more than your summer holidays.
However, as we all know, winter sports aren't the safest physical activities. There's a funny quote summing it perfectly up: "skiing is the art of catching cold and going broke while rapidly heading nowhere at great personal risk" (author unknown).
To make the most out of your skiing adventure you need to make sure you avoid injury on the slope. Here's how to do that:
1. Start workout well in advance
Skiing and snowboarding are demanding sports - they're full-body activities which require high endurance and stamina. You won't get to enjoy your winter holidays when you're short of breath after 5 minutes on the slope. The muscle sores aren't fun either.
So you want to come prepared. Hit the gym at least 2 times per week. Or go jogging. Do squats. Do some ski workouts with youtube. The most important thing is to improve your stamina and strengthen your leg muscles.
2. Get yourself quality equipment
Good equipment based on your skill level is crucial to enjoy your time on the slope. Boots have to be comfortable. Bindings need to be solid and set low - this will decrease the risk of a leg and knee injury when you fall. Your skis have to release easily during an accident. Helmet is essential for obvious reasons.
Also, remember to tune up your equipment before the season starts.
3. Know your limits
This one's all about common sense. We should all be aware of our capabilities. If you're spending a whole day on the slope, take it easy. Have a break now and then to get your muscles a rest. Have a snack and drink so that your energy levels don't drop dangerously low.
Do you know that the most accidents happen in the afternoon when people are tired and are trying for "one more time"?
Actually, Bartosz is an excellent example - he had a serious arm injury when skiing on a very easy slope. I would never think that anything dangerous could happen on such mild slope. But he was tired - he had already been skiing all day and decided to have one more run, despite feeling weary.
Well, he was recovering for over half a year - that's a very high price to pay for "one more run".
By the way, have you heard about Alpine Responsibility Code? This set of rules may seem obvious but it's always good to remember that people ahead of you have the right of way. Don't stop in the middle of the slope or wherever you're an obstacle and not visible from above. Don't go on closed pistes. Don't drink alcohol.
These rules seem evident but let's face the truth - not all people are aware of them.
4. Develop your skills
I've got to admit I watch quite a lot of ski instructional films on youtube. I also took some ski lessons at the beginning of last season. I'll probably take some more this season too. I'm no expert and I know I need to improve my skills.
I think that everyone could do with some extra lessons with an instructor. Not only beginners need a helping hand. Such lessons will upgrade your skills on the little things and fix bad habits. And it's no shame to listen to some advice from more experienced skiers/snowboarders.
5. Be careful on the lifts
A few years ago, when I decided to start practising winter sports, I chose snowboard. Do you know what was the most stressful moment for me? Getting on and off from the lift. I simply cannot count how many times did I fall right after getting off the lift. And t-bars - those kind of lifts made my hair stood up!
Then, I swapped snowboard for skis and it got better, but I was still stressed out when it was to time to get off.
Getting on and off a lift makes for accidents. The chairlift is unforgiving. Even if it's slow, you still need to remember to line up properly. And getting off a chairlift is even more tricky - especially the beginners may fall and pile up in the unloading area.
My advice here is just to be extra careful, especially if it's your first time on the lift.
6. Start out easy before you go on challenging slopes
Take it easy at the beginning of the season and at the start of your day. Even experienced skiers go on easy pistes first before hitting the steep slopes.
Remember to warm up. Focus on technique, on your movements and turns. Prepare yourself mentally and physically for bigger challenges. It's great to gain confidence first, practice your turning and stopping skills and then enjoy your whole day to the fullest.