It’s the holiday season, and in the mountains, that means it’s finally time to start hitting the slopes! We’ve been waiting all year for the snow to start falling again, and if you’re like us, you’ve been breaking out the ski and snowboard videos and tuning up your gear, to start getting amped for a brand new season of shredding!
Winter brings many new people to the amazing world of skiing and snowboarding each year. Winter sports are a fantastic way to have fun with friends and family, and new snowsports participants are the future of the industry!
If you are a beginner or novice skier or snowboarder, we bet you are super excited to get out on the mountain and do all the things you’ve been dreaming about! Hitting the slopes might look easy, but actually can take years of practice and experience to do confidently. So in order to make your first mountain vacation a fun and SAFE one, we’ve put together a list of 10 ways new skiers and snowboarders can stay safe on the slopes:
1. Get in Shape
Although skiing and snowboarding may look easy, it can actually be very physically demanding. You will use muscles that you don’t typically use, you will get tired, and you will at times exert more energy than you expected to. A tired body is more prone to injury.
If you know you have a ski vacation coming up, get ready for it by preparing your body. Priming your muscles before the snow even falls will prep you for skiing’s intense quad and hamstring workout. Plus, cardio is important because it’ll help your body adjust to the mountain altitude. If you aren’t in good shape in the low elevation where you likely live, moving in the mountains will make any exercise more difficult. But if you work out year round, you will already have a good base for your cardiovascular fitness to help curb the side effects of altitude.
2. Know Your Limits – and Don’t Push Them Too Soon.
Start out easy. Get the feel for things, and then slowly build from there. Skiing is an amazing sport that you can truly enjoy for a lifetime. And each time you venture out to the mountain, you improve! So don’t push your limits to the extent that you feel out of control or unsafe. There’s a voice in your head that will tell you when this is happening. Listen to it.
You might want to follow your friends to the intermediate or expert slopes right away, but even experienced skiers need to take it easy for the first few runs. One of the biggest mistakes skiers make is wanting to hit steep terrain too quickly. Give the easier runs a try to learn new movements and perfect your technique, then challenge yourself to the harder runs. Before you advance to steeper runs, be confident with your turning skills and very importantly – your ability to stop.
Many of the movements that you’ll be doing while skiing are new to your body. Which leads to our third tip:
3. Take a Lesson (or two!) and Learn Proper Technique
The combination of bad technique mixed with inexperience can lead to an increased chance of injuries. So minimize the risk to your body AND fast-track your learning and your limited vacation time by setting time early on in your vacation for a professional lesson.
Trust us – we can tell you from witnessing many arguments between couples on the snow – that trying to learn from your significant other is NOT as romantic as it sounds. The good skier wants to go ride, and the new skier is frustrated because they are not “getting” it. Honestly, the average person is not equipped to actually teach the skills they are doing effectively. A simple 1-2 hour lesson can allow the new skier or snowboarder to progress quicker, and be able to enjoy the slopes with friends and family with confidence, instead of fear and frustration. You can learn how to stop quickly and effectively, turn properly, how to adjust your equipment for a more comfortable experience, Increase your overall confidence, keep your technique moving in the right direction and help prevent bad habits.
4. Learn How to Fall – Don’t Fight It!
Everybody takes a digger sometimes. An out-of-control skier speeding down the mountain is a terrifying sight, that puts everyone at risk…but we’ve likely all found ourselves there at one point or another. So don’t be afraid to fall on purpose.
While falling might sound like a painful proposition, the truth is, you are going to stop one way or another, and you don’t want your fall to involve another skier, a tree, or some kind of man-made feature. So if you start to feel out of control, sitting down will slow you down, and help you gain control before you run into another person or a tree or lift tower. Be conscious of your form and stay loose. Don’t try to break your fall with a stiff outstretched arm, and let yourself come to a stop before you try to stand.
5. Stay Hydrated & Take Breaks
Our bodies need water, especially when at altitude, and when being pushed beyond our normal limits. And if you are a beginning skier, you’ll certainly be doing this.
Resting between runs as needed is also important. Typically, people get hurt more frequently late in the day when they are tired and heading back to the lodge. Be aware of how you are feeling — take a rest when you need to, and make sure you load up on plenty of water or sport drinks before, during, and after your time on the mountain.
6. Practice The Responsibility Code
Common Sense, it’s one of the most important things to keep in mind and practice when on the slopes. Plastered around all ski resorts, and often printed on the back of your lift ticket as well as on trail maps, are simple, common-sense rules to follow when you are on the mountain. For example, ski in control so you are able to stop and avoid others; give people downhill the right of way; look uphill before you merge onto a trail; and never rest in a blind spot where people can’t see you, like anywhere near a jump or roller or dropoff. Also, avoid stopping directly in the center of the run – instead, stop on the side of the trail, in clear view of others. Follow these rules, and you’ll have a better chance of staying safe, and of keeping others safe as well. Plus, it’s your responsibility and proper snow etiquette.
7. Know your lifts
You might not realize it, but getting on and off the lift is a key place to get injured if you’re not paying attention. Proper lift usage is included in the Responsibility Code. When you are entering a liftline, make sure you know how to use that particular lift before you get on. Newer lifts, and usually those in beginner areas will come to pick you up slowly, but some older lifts won’t run as smoothly or slowly. Pay attention to what you are doing and what the chair is doing, and loading should be a cinch.
Be aware of offloading hazards too! Snowboarders have greater challenges getting off lifts since one foot is unstrapped – practice your one-footed balancing in safe areas first, then take it slow, get clear, away from the lift and the offloading path, and then strap back into your bindings. New skiers and snowboarders should avoid T-bars and J-bars until they feel comfortable enough on skis/boards to use them safely.
8. Know the trails, and the terrain suited best for your ability
Some resorts are blessed with super-wide slopes, others have narrow, winding, and intersecting trails. Beginners should spend extra time reviewing trail maps, looking at grooming reports, and talking to others to learn the best areas to go, as well as the places they should avoid that may not be obvious, such as busy intersections, areas that tend to get icy or ungroomed sections that turn into mogul fields.
Snowboarders should avoid flat areas, which make it difficult to stay on your toe or heel edge, and increase the likelihood of taking a hard fall. Flat areas also make snowboarders have to unstrap and kick or hike if you lose too much speed. All beginners should avoid terrain parks until their skills progress. Work on your basics on the groomed trails, then when you are ready, consider taking a lesson before hitting the park.
9. Get your gear checked out by a technician
A safe on-snow experience begins in the ski shop. It’s tempting to borrow a friend’s board, or use some old ski gear you picked up at a yard sale to save some cash. This can still be a great deal and a way to stretch your budget – but before you take that gear to the hill, take it to a ski (or snowboard) shop. Have a conversation with a trained technician about the fit and also whether the equipment is the proper length and stiffness for your ability level, and your height/weight. Ski/snowboard tuning and maintenance also makes an enormous difference to the ease in which the ski or board makes a turn, holds a turn, and glides down the mountain.
10. Don’t drink and ski
It may be tempting, we get it – you’re on vacation, it’s beautiful out, you need to hydrate! – but we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you to save it for the hot tub. Skiing and snowboarding as a lifestyle, as an adventure, as an achievement – is an athletic pursuit, not an arena spectator event. You need to have your legs under you. Your breathing needs to be dialed in, there are little kids downhill of you – and at the least, you must be focused and alert enough to make split-second decisions. The joy you will get from participating in this incredible sport at the top of your abilities, beats the buzz you’ll get from cans of cheap brew on the chairlift any day. Let the après-ski happen after you ski. Bury the beer in the snowbank until the grill is lit and it’s time to kick back and boast about the day’s newly won mountain adventures in proper style.
That’s our list of 10 tips for new skiers and snowboarders. If you are planning a ski vacation in the US, bring Safe Descents along for the ride. Our product provides extremely affordable coverage for ambulance, air ambulance, field rescue, emergency evacuation, medical repatriation, medical escort and transport costs. For more information, check out full policy texts at https://safedescents.com/full-policy-text/
Buy coverage now: https://safedescents.com/coverage/
Risk less, ski more with Safe Descents.