It's a common fear for beginners and experts alike: what if I get hurt? After all, skiing can be a scary endeavor. Hurling down the mountain with two planks strapped to your feet is extreme pleasure—balanced by the euphoria of cheating potential pain. To avoid anything more harsh than falling on your butt while attempting to snowplow, follow these tips—in the least:
1. Wear a helmet. Sure, it can seem hokey. But everyone's doing it these days. If you've never worn one, try it. You might be surprised. Helmets these days are made to be lightweight, yet strong. And quite comfortable, too. They can even go beyond protection into entertainment; some helmets are fully wired and ready for your iPod or other fun. Not a bad proposition when you consider some of the most serious on-mountain injuries are to the head.
2. Get your gear checked. It's something not a lot of people do. At the beginning of the season, the boots, the skis, poles come out of the closet. And you're ready to hit the slopes, right? Wrong. Gear that sits in storage—namely ski bindings—can loosen up. Or, even more common: your weight can change throughout the year, leaving your binding settings just off enough to be a hazard if they need to release properly during a fall. I personally know one skier who took a fall without having her gear checked after several years in the attic. The result: a torn ACL, MCL and physical therapy for months. At the beginning of each season, have your local ski shop do a binding and release check. Plus, make sure your boots fit right, your poles are the proper length, and your skis get that wonderful, magical tune that makes them glide down the mountain with ease.
3. Don't drink and ski/ride. Enough said.
4. Don't be a Cowboy. Snow sports are full of people who think they're way better at skiing or riding than they really are. So of course, the tendency is to go on the toughest slopes possible without regard to terrain or speed. (And every mountain has those one or two guys who “dive bomb” down the slopes in a tuck doing something under the speed of light...even though it's their first time on skis…) Testing your skills are fine. But be smart. Mind the terrain, get familiar with the trail layout, keep your space from others, and start the day off with some easier runs to warm up.
5. “Don't make your last run.” At the end of the day —when you're first noticing you're tired and that your day should come to a close, let it. Right then. Many people get hurt squeezing in “one more before the lifts close.” That's when you're most tired—and the most likely to get hurt. If you need to end your ski day an hour or two before the resort turns out the lights, there's no shame. You'll have one of the first seats at the bar.