If you are just a normal skier who sticks to the piste and doesn’t take too many risks, you may not think much about your safety when you’re on your annual ski holiday. Most regular skiers know what they are doing and accept the risks involved, but there are many easy ways to minimise these risks, many of which you are probably already doing without realising!
Never underestimate the importance of good quality gloves when skiing. Not only do they do the obvious and keep your hands warm and frostbite free, but they are also vitally important in protecting your hands in other ways. They cushion your hands against the harsh ridges of icy snow when you fall and they also give some protection to your thumbs from getting caught in the ski pole strap, a very common ski injury. Breathable gloves prevent sweaty hands which, once cooled, remain damp and cold and can even freeze later in the day. Flexibility is important too so you don’t constantly have to take your gloves off, exposing your hands to the elements, as well as durability and most of all, make sure your gloves are waterproof.
Ski boots which fit properly
Ankle injuries used to occur much more frequently than they do these days, thanks mostly to advances in ski boot technology. It shows therefore, how important it is to wear ski boots that fit properly and hold your foot securely in position. Make sure your boots fit well but aren’t too tight that they cut off the circulation, or too loose that you can lift your whole foot off the bottom of the boot. Your toes should be able to move though, to ensure proper circulation. Most of all they need to be comfortable as there’s nothing worse than having to ski all day in painful boots. Most ankle injuries these days occur not from a badly fitting boot but either from a bad landing after a jump, or if your skis don’t clip off properly, which leads nicely to the next point…
Correct DIN setting
This is what your ski technician is fiddling about with on your ski binding when you get your skis fitted at the beginning of the week. It is calculated not only by your height, weight, boot size, and age, but also by your ability level and style of skiing. The higher the DIN number, the more securely your ski is attached to your boot and the more vigorous a fall will have to be for your ski to release. A beginner will have a fairly low DIN so that the ski releases even after a slow speed fall as they will not be practised in how to fall safely. An experience skier will opt for a higher setting so that skis do not clip off when you are skiing rigorous terrain, or if you just fall in a controlled manner. Having the wrong DIN setting can be disastrous, particularly if set too high and your ski doesn’t come off when it should resulting in a nasty knee or pelvis injury. Similarly, a setting that’s too low can mean a ski can clip of mid turn sending you spinning. It’s therefore vitally important to get this right and is a key aspect to being safe on the slopes.
A decent pair of goggles allows you to see in all conditions, which as you can imagine, greatly reduces your chances of getting injured. Spending a little more money on your goggles usually pays dividends as they’ll be better quality, less likely to steam up, and probably come with changeable lenses for different light conditions. In a blizzards, being able to see as best you can within the conditions really will keep you safer than squinting through the snow with your sunnies on your head. In bright weather too, a proper pair of UV protection lenses will save your eyes from getting burnt, and will be hugely beneficial to your sight in the long run. Oddly enough, being able to see where you’re going often prevents crashes!
Whether or not to wear a helmet has divided the skiing community for years. Most would agree that children under 16 should all be encouraged to wear one, with many people calling for them to be made compulsory for young skiers and boarders. Some believe you become more reckless on the slopes when wearing a helmet because you inherently ‘feel safer’ wearing one. Using this as an excuse not to wear one is flawed however, as the figures show that in 188 skiing and snowboarding related deaths, 108 of these had head injury as the primary cause of death – if all of those had been wearing a helmet, this figure would be much lower.
Figures for helmet use are hard to come by as injuries that do not occur because the skier was wearing a helmet are obviously not recorded. One scientist, Brent Hagel, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Calgary, has discovered that wearing a helmet out on the slopes may reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 29 to 56%, which is certainly a reason to wear one. In this day and age, when you see as many people on the slopes wearing them as not, so much so that it’s no longer un-cool to wear one, and when young adults, particularly in the park, often criticise each other for their stupidity in not wearing a helmet, there really is no reason not to. It could just save your life, or at the very least, save you from a horrible headache.