Skiing is quite the adrenaline rush. No doubt this rush is because skiing comes with a fair amount of danger. Being able to enjoy heart-pumping turns must come with minimizing your risk of injury. This is why it’s key to follow some essential skiing safety tips.
10 essential ski safety tips are:
- Use the proper gear
- Train outside the slopes
- Train with professionals on the slopes
- Learn ski resort signage
- Learn ski resort etiquette
- Check snow and weather conditions
- Plan your day
- Pack emergency supplies
- Don’t go alone
- Know your limits
Staying safe on the slopes separates a bad day of skiing from an epic day of skiing. Understanding each of these tips will help keep you safe, happy, and healthy. Below, we will delve into each of these tips so that you will be an expert at ski safety by the end of this article.
Table of Contents
10 Essential Ski Safety Tips
1. Use The Proper Gear
Using gear that does not fit properly or using equipment for the wrong conditions can be extremely dangerous. If you are a beginner, seeking out a professional to outfit you can be helpful. Having the right gear might be the most crucial ski safety tip as it can make a huge difference in your experience.
Basic ski gear is considered to be your skis, your boots, and your bindings. These items are arguably the most important parts of your ski gear, and therefore must fit perfectly to ensure your safety.
If your skis are too wide or long, it’s easy to roll an ankle or for you to pick up too much speed and lose control. If your boots are too big, you lose edge control and can quickly lose control of your skis. If your bindings don’t fit your boots properly, you could easily separate from your skis on a simple turn.
The best way to ensure your basic gear fits properly is to get fitted by a professional.Even when using a professional, sometimes it is hard to tell what the gear will feel like on the slopes. Many places let you demo skis and bindings before purchasing them to make sure they fit correctly.
I would recommend heat molding to be extra precise about the fitting. Heat molding is a bit pricier but worth every penny to have comfortable boots. Secondary gear is just as necessary as the basics, and outfitting yourself with the proper safety gear could save your life.
After skis, bindings, and boots, secondary gear is a helmet, goggles, and a first aid kit. Helmets are now considered an essential ski gear component. Helmets have reduced head injuries in skiing and snowboarding by 60 percent. Even if you are not tree skiing, you never know if someone might lose control behind you.
Ski helmets are specifically made to keep your head warm and absorb any impact that may occur. Sometimes helmets are only made to withstand one impact, so be sure to research that before purchasing yours.
Goggles are another safety gear component. Goggles keep your eyes safe and warm and help you to maintain visibility.Basic goggles function when it’s snowing or sunny, but if you plan on skiing seriously, you might want to invest in changeable lenses.
Interchangeable lenses allow you to see better in different conditions. I wear low light lenses when it’s snowing heavily and the bumps on the ground are harder to interpret. Sunny light lenses act more like sunglasses, shielding you from the sun reflecting off the snow. I keep both lenses on me in case of a sudden change in weather.
The last safety gear component is a first aid kit. If you like to do big hikes and venture outside the resort, make sure you have a pretty good one. If not, just a basic one will do.
If you cut yourself on a tree branch, having one will, at the very least, prevent you from bleeding on your expensive ski clothes before making it to a ski patrol hut. You never know what could happen in the backcountry.
Because the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, it is vital to be prepared for all types of weather to maintain ski safety. Layering is your best friend. Having water-wicking base layers with warmer layers on top will allow you to shed or put on layers as the weather or your body temperature fluctuates.
Surprisingly, socks impact your safety more than you would expect. Thin wool socks do not interfere with your performance but keep your feet warm and dry if you get lost or have to hike off your skis for a long time.
It is also a good idea to keep some hand warmers on you if the weather turns bad and disorients you. Having warm hands will not only prevent frostbite but will boost your morale too. However, having all the perfect gear won’t matter if you are in poor shape when you ski. That is why the next essential ski safety tip is to get in shape!
2. Train Off The Slopes
Skiing is an athletic endeavor, and to go into it out of shape can be dangerous. For example, you are more likely to pull a muscle or break a bone if you haven’t adequately trained off the slopes.
The best training I have found for skiing is yoga. Yoga strengthens your core and will make maintaining control of your skis much easier.However, if you want to do the bare minimum to train for your upcoming ski vacation, I suggest squats with some weights.
Squats mimic the skiing action and prepare the exact muscles that you use while skiing. Plus, your glutes will thank you when you find yourself in the deep powder! However, the best way to train isn’t off the slopes; it’s on the slopes with a hired professional.
3. Train With Professionals On The Slopes
Ski school is a great way to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. There are things you can learn from a teacher in one day that could take years to figure out on your own otherwise. Having someone there to explain the mechanics of stopping and starting and how your edge works is priceless.
Not only does a teacher offer straightforward methods for successfully skiing, but they also know the safest and best low-volume spots to learn on the mountain. Not to mention ski school students get to cut to the front of the lift line! There are many benefits to hiring an instructor, but one advantage is having them interpret mountain signage for you.
4. Learn Ski Resort Signage
Like on a highway, the signs on a ski resort can help keep you safe and may even save your life. It is essential to know what they mean and to heed their warnings.
At the start of each trial, you will find the trail’s name with a symbol next to it. For example, in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, a green circle will indicate the easiest run, a blue square will indicate an intermediate run, a black diamond will indicate a challenging run, and a double black diamond will indicate an experts-only run.
If your ski vacation takes you to the European ski slopes, a blue circle indicates the easiest run, a red circle indicates an intermediate run and a black circle indicates an advanced run. If you prefer a Japanese ski vacation, a green circle indicates the easiest run, a red circle indicates an intermediate run, and a black circle indicates an advanced run.
Other Trail Signs
Once you know the trail’s difficulty that you intend to ski, you should also be aware of a few other signs. The closed trail sign is a pretty straightforward one. However, sometimes closed trails can look very tempting at the top but can land you in a melted creek.
Another sign to look for is the exclamation mark indicating an obstacle.This could be a rock that has suddenly become exposed due to melting snow or a piece of snow equipment in the early season.
One of the most misread and accident-inducing signs is the merge sign. The merge sign means that two separate ski trails become one. This means that the run will have twice as many skiers on it once you reach the sign.
Another sign to keep an eye out for is the lodge sign. This will indicate a restaurant where you can get some water or food and take a break. Once you can speak the language of trail signs, it’s time to learn some ski resort etiquette!
5. Learn Ski Resort Etiquette
Knowing the proper etiquette on a ski resort can keep you from colliding with others. Most of the time, other skiers will assume you know this etiquette and act accordingly, so following it is a must.
Probably the most important piece of etiquette to adhere to is not stopping just below a hill. The oncoming skiers will not see you until it is far too late. I have seen many avoidable injuries happen this way.
Another critical piece of etiquette is, if you see a merge sign, it is your responsibility as a merging skier to look uphill at oncoming traffic. Do not blindly merge into the new run. The failure to look uphill is the cause of many ski collisions.
If you are on a narrow trail and plan on passing, alert the skier in front of you by saying, “on your left” or “on your right” before passing. If you know of skiers behind you on a narrow trail, keep your turns tight and predictable.
6. Check Snow And Weather Conditions
Deep snow or an afternoon windstorm can turn an average day of skiing into an intense one. Although mountain weather is unpredictable, it is always wise to check weather apps or even resort websites forrecent snow accumulation.
If you are a beginner and the resort just received 20 inches of new snow, it would not be in your best interest to head to the backside of the mountain. It will take a tremendous amount of energy to make your way through deep snow to get back to the base area. Instead, use as many external resources as possible to make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into.
Wind is one of the few things that can shut down lifts and gondolas, so if you see high winds in the afternoon forecast, take your turns on the front side of the mountain where you can access the base area without having to take any extra lifts. A little planning beforehand can significantly enhance your skiing experience and keep you from getting hurt or having to be rescued by ski patrol.
7. Plan Your Day
Grab or download a map of the ski resort you plan to ski and make a plan. This will help you know where the easiest and most difficult runs are and where you can plan stops for lunch or water breaks.
Studying a map before you go can help keep you safe and prevent you from getting lost. It is also helpful to note where ski patrol huts are on the mountain in case of emergency. I keep ski patrol’s phone number saved in my phone, so that I can call them immediately if something serious were to happen.
If you are a beginner, stay within the ski resort boundaries. Outside the resort, ridgelines can quickly fall away into gulches and canyons you don’t want to get stuck in. Unless you are an expert and comfortable in the backcountry, stay in the resort no matter how tempting the powder might look on the other side of the gate.
Even if you stay in bounds, it is easy to get turned around at certain ski resorts. So, it doesn’t hurt to have a bag lightly packed for emergencies.
8. Pack Emergency Supplies
Whenever I strap on my skis, I also strap on my backpack. My pack always contains some water, a couple of protein bars, a lighter, an emergency one-time use blanket, duct tape, a first aid kit, and a knife.
In a worst-case scenario, you are sleeping in the snow with what you have on you.Food, water, a one-time use blanket, and a lighter provide you with basic human survival necessities. Duct tape and a knife can aid you in any gear repairs, and a first aid kit takes care of any injuries.
We all hope to never have to use these things, but I know far too many experienced skiers who have ended up sleeping in the snow until search and rescue could retrieve them the next day.
9. Don’t Go Alone
Especially if you are a beginner, always ski with a buddy. There are endless reasons not to go alone. If you injure yourself and are out of cell range, you have someone to get help. If you are lost, you have someone else to navigate and compare notes with. If you both took a wrong turn in the backcountry, you have someone else to share body warmth with through the night.
I would be lying if I said I never took solo laps, but I consider myself an expert skier. Even as an expert skier, I keep myself around other skiers when riding by myself, and I never venture into the backcountry alone.Be aware of your skills as a skier, and don’t push past your limits.
10. Know Your Limits
It’s tempting to show off your skills when they have painstakingly progressed, but knowing your limits shows your true strength as a skier. Unfortunately, some of the world’s greatest skiers have perished in an avalanche or froze to death in a creek chasing powder.
Know who you are as a skier, and don’t push past that. Take breaks when you need them, even if the friends you are skiing with don’t want to. Get that drink of water. Don’t have that extra beer. Only you know how your body can safely ski, so listen to it.
Don’t let others pressure you into taking a double black diamond run when you’re only comfortable with a blue. Trust me, you’ll get there, but you won’t get there quickly with a broken leg. So, trust your intuition and keep yourself safe.
Keeping yourself safe during a day of skiing will make you fall in love with the sport. Remember to use the proper gear, train both on and off the mountain, learn signage and etiquette, and check the weather and snow conditions.
Only then can you plan your day and pack your pack with emergency supplies. Never ski alone or let anyone peer pressure you into skiing past your limits. These essential ski safety tips will keep you from any unwanted injuries or anxieties and make your overall experience more enjoyable!