Wintry weather is a welcome sight for skiers and snowboarders. If you’re a fan of winter sports, learn how to avoid injury and stay safe on the slopes with tips from UR Medicine Sports Medicine specialist Dr. Sandeep Mannava.
- Ski to your skill level. The number one reason why people get hurt skiing or snowboarding is because they try to do more than they can safely do given their skills and experience. If you’re a beginner, you will benefit greatly from lessons with a trained professional. And if you’ve been doing winter sports for a while, stay on the slope that fits your abilities and the conditions. If you are new to a mountain, consider skiing with a guide or taking a half-day lesson to acclimate yourself to the mountain and terrain.
- Shape up and warm up. Skiing and snowboarding are demanding sports. Focus on exercises to strengthen your quads and hamstrings (thigh muscles), calves, shoulders, and arms. Core strength will also help your form and help you avoid lower-back injuries. Use stretches to improve your flexibility and try some low-impact cardio on an elliptical machine to build up your aerobic fitness. When you’re ready to ski, go for a warm-up run on an easy slope at the beginning of the day.
- Check your gear. Make sure your boots fit properly (they should be snug but not so tight that they hurt your feet or restrict circulation) and that all the bindings are tuned up. Always wear a ski helmet, and keep your head warm with a helmet liner or hat. Ski and snowboard technology has greatly improved over the years, making the sport easier to master, as well as safer.
- Dress the part. Wear appropriate clothing and protect your skin and eyes. Clothes should be wind- and water-resistant. Dress in layers; under layers should wick perspiration away from your skin. Cuffs at ankles and wrists will keep out the wind. Wear gloves or mittens—mittens are generally better if your hands tend to get cold. Even on a cold, overcast day, you should wear a sunscreen before spending hours outdoors on the slopes. Protect your eyes from injury by wearing goggles or impact-resistant sunglasses.
- Scope out the slopes. Know the conditions where you’re skiing; they can change quickly depending on temperature, sun and wind, and how much use the trail gets from other skiers. Always be aware of the conditions and terrain and be able to change directions or stop when needed.
- Watch for traffic. Think of a snow slope as a highway—watch for other skiers around you to avoid a collision. Be aware of others using the slopes and don’t get distracted by electronic devices or wear headphones. When you do need a break, stop in an area that is out of the main flow of the skiing terrain and visible to other skiers and snowboarders.
- Stay hydrated. Skiing and snowboarding are rigorous physical activities that require adequate hydration with water or sports drinks. Avoid alcohol or caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
- Stop when you’re tired. Your form often suffers with fatigue, which puts you at risk of injury. Rest in the lodge for a bit, or consider calling it a day. It’s better to stay safe and healthy than to get hurt and miss weeks of the season.
Sandeep Mannava, M.D., Ph.D., specializes in sports medicine; arthroscopic surgery of the knee and shoulder; and shoulder reconstruction and replacement. He is an avid skier and a team physician for the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) who works with the U.S. Olympic Ski and Snowboard teams. If you have questions about skiing or snowboarding musculoskeletal medicine, consider a consultation with Dr. Mannava or one of his sports medicine partners at UR Medicine Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Division of Sports Medicine.