You’ve probably heard of and seen skiers with horrific injuries. These are often associated with the high speeds achieved by advanced skiers… but novice skiers don’t go as fast. So is skiing dangerous for beginners?
Being a novice skier can be dangerous, but it comes down to luck and your approach. If you try it without professional help, there’s a good chance of hurting yourself. This is also the case if you try to show off. However sometimes, you can just fall awkwardly and sustain an injury at low speeds.
In this article, I’ll go into how dangerous skiing is for beginners, how you can stay safe and… if you should just go snowboarding instead!
The Dangers Associated With Learning To Ski
Of course skiing can be dangerous.
Whilst a large part of the danger is how you approach the sport, there’s always a chance of a freak accident.
Nonetheless, accidents are often due to lack of experience, variable snow conditions, and bad luck. Therefore, you need to accept the risk, but manage it by not skiing beyond your abilities.
In reality, skiing is no more dangerous than driving a car, but what are the dangers?
1. Hitting Objects Or People
You’ll feel like Bambi on ice in the early days.
Don’t worry… we all go through that phase!
Trying to control two planks (whilst wondering what the poles are for) is no mean feat. This often means that you may not take into account what’s around you.
Ski slopes have many objects around them, including:
- Ski lift pylons
- Piste markers
If your eyes are focused on the snow or your skis, you may not see one of these objects and bump into it.
Fortunately, your speeds are likely to be pretty low at this early stage, so injuries are unlikely. Hitting a person however is a bit more serious. Your combined speeds can cause a nasty accident. Look up!
2. Someone Crashing Into You
This conveniently brings me onto the next issue…
Ski slopes can get pretty busy.
Crashes are not unheard of.
There is a code of conduct to keep everyone as safe as possible, but sometimes people don’t stick to it. Therefore, it’s best to be vigilant and ski defensively.
3. Falling Over
Falls are common when you’re learning to ski, but they’re often minor.
However, part of the risk you take is falling awkwardly. This can lead to broken bones or a head injury, but you’d have to be very unlucky or travelling at high speed.
4. Sunstroke, Sunburn, And Snow Blindness
One of the main things beginner skiers overlook is the sun’s power.
The sun’s rays are stronger when they reflect off the snow, causing sunstroke, sunburn, and snow blindness. But, as long as you wear goggles and suncream, this isn’t a problem.
Make sure you’ve got the right gear before hitting the slopes!
What's It Like To Fall Over On Skis?
Despite what you see and hear about skiers falling over, most falls are so minor that you barely feel the impact.
This is more the case on steeper slopes as the gradient takes away lots of the energy of the impact.
Strangely… you’re more likely to hurt yourself on flatter terrain as you come to a sudden stop.
But that doesn’t mean you should go straight to the steep slopes!
Stick with green runs, and progress to blues and reds when you have more control.
Falling is all part of learning to ski. It lets you know what you’ve done wrong and how to fall more safely when your speeds increase. In fact, falls can be pretty funny for you, not just the people watching.
Ever seen a yard sale for example?
How To Stay Safe When Learning To Ski
1. Wear A Helmet
Nobody should ski without a helmet.
I don’t care how cool you (think you) are.
Helmets protect your head in minor collisions, preventing head injuries. Of course, helmets only work to a point, so there are still fatalities in extreme circumstances. Still, life-changing injuries are significantly reduced by them. Protect your brain!
2. Be Careful Where You Stop
Stopping over the brow of a hill, around a blind bend, or on the landing of a jump will get you hurt. Skiers and snowboarders cannot see you and could hit you at high speed. Instead, stand to the side of the slope, out of the way, when you feel like taking a breather.
3. Don't Ski Beyond Your Abilities
Before heading to more challenging slopes, learn to slow down and stop. These are essential skills you need to take with you when you go beyond the nursery slopes.
Don’t be tempted to follow your more experienced friends on difficult terrain until you’re ready.
There’s a good chance you be out of your depth, making it dangerous for you and others. Build up to more challenging slopes gradually; there’s no rush.
4. Book Some Lessons
An instructor will coach you through the correct techniques and adapt their teaching style to help you progress. Ski lessons will keep you safe, prevent you from getting into bad habits and make you a better skier sooner.
If you book a lesson to get you started, you can make your way down the mountain in control within a few hours. But if you just decide to get on a chairlift and hope for the best, your risk increases exponentially.
5. Pick A Good Weather Day
If your ski trip is short, you have to make do with whatever weather you have. But if the weather is terrible, and you can only ski in a whiteout, head for the tree-lined runs, as it’s much easier to see when the sky is the same colour as the snow.
However, if you can avoid skiing on a bad day as a learner and save it for a nice day, you’ll have much more fun. You’ll find it much easier to react to the snow conditions, you’ll be more comfortable, and the whole experience will be much more pleasant.
6. Work On Your Fitness
Even though you’re sliding downhill on skis, you will perform better and be more resistant to injury with a good fitness level. Skiing and snowboarding burns an insane amount of calories!
Work on strengthening your legs and core while improving flexibility in the weeks leading up to your ski trip.
7. Use Suitable Equipment
If you try to ski on skis that are too advanced for you, you won’t have the necessary control. At the very least, you’ll hate skiing. At worst, it can cause injuries.
This is the same for ill-fitting ski boots. If your ski boots don’t fit properly, your control will be compromised, resulting in a bad day on the mountain (yes there is such a thing).
8. Take A Rest From Time To Time
Most skiers get injured when they’re tired.
Tiredness prevents your muscles from working as they should, and it affects your concentration. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop for a hot chocolate, have a long lunch, or a sit down before getting back into it.
It can also be beneficial to take a day off mid-week.
This will give your legs time to recover, and you can enjoy the other things ski resorts have to offer.
Learning how to ski is tiring, as you use muscles you didn’t know existed. Also, concentration is a considerable part of learning something new, which can be draining.
9. Warm Up Before Heading Up The Mountain
Do some stretches before you leave your accommodation in the morning.
This will get your muscles warmed up, so they can perform how they should. But it also prevents injury, as your muscles are loose and not under lots of stress from being too tight.
It’s important to stretch at the end of the day too. It can be tricky when all you want to do is hit the après bars, but a cool-down stretch will mean your muscles aren’t as sore the following day.
Common Injuries For Beginner Skiers
As I’ve already discussed, injuries are possible when skiing. So what are the most common?
According to King Edward VII’s Hospital, there is one injury per 10,000 days skied. These include ACL, MCL, shoulder injuries, head injuries, concussion, whiplash, and thumb and wrist fractures.
These injuries can happen to anyone, but statistically, skiers between 35 and 50 who hire their ski equipment are at higher risk. These injuries are the result of the dangers I highlighted earlier.
My Personal Thoughts
I know what you’re thinking… why am I even talking about skiing on a snowboarding blog?
After all, skiers hate snowboarders right?
Well, because we’re all in this together!
Skiers and snowboarders share the mountain. I want everyone to do so as safely as possible.
Ultimately, both sports carry a risk. But almost everything fun in life comes with inherent risk. To me, the risk of sitting on the sofa, never having really lived my life, is a far far worse concept.
So go out there, have fun, but be safe.
Should You Snowboard Instead?
Statistically, snowboarders are more likely to suffer an injury. But they have less chance of dying.
Basically, snowboarding is safer if you don’t mind getting bashed around a bit.
Fortunately, the above tips for staying safe on the mountain are relevant for both beginner skiers and snowboarders.
But, you shouldn’t decide which sport to do based only on their injury and mortality statistics.
I skied for 11 years before becoming a snowboarder. I don’t ski anymore because I prefer the feeling snowboarding gives me. The choice my friend, is yours!
Read more about the dangers of snowboarding.
Both skiing and snowboarding involve sliding down a mountain. Therefore, there will be risks involved (including human error, natural hazards, and bad luck).
But these risks should not prevent you from taking up either sport.
The danger is part of the fun; if it was 100% safe, it would be boring. We wouldn’t get the adrenaline rush that comes with speed!
But you can significantly reduce the likelihood of injury by managing the risk. Don’t run before you can walk, get some lessons, use the correct equipment, and work on your fitness.
Good luck my two-planked friend.
You’re gonna love it!