High profile cases serve to put the risk of ski accidents front of mind, so what can you do to stay safe on the slopes for your next ski trip?
Firstly, think positive. The statistics show that your chances of hurting yourself while skiing are low. French injury rates stand at just over two injuries per 1,000 skier days: a tiny risk.
But there’s still a lot you can do to help keep yourself safe on the slopes.
Piste studies show that ski accidents are more common on days when temperatures are mild, snow consistency is less predictable and the slopes are busier. Take particular caution on relatively gentle blue pistes where you’re most likely to encounter skiers of mixed ability.
In addition to ‘be wary on the blue’, watch your speed, and always look up the slope before you set off, these 6 ways will help you avoid injury on your next ski trip:
1 Wear a helmet
Head injuries represent less than 4% of piste injuries, and wearing a helmet reduces your chance of head injury by 35%.
READ MORE: Why we should all be wearing a ski helmet
2 Get in shape before you go
The organisation Mėdecins de Montagne warns that the highest chance of injury comes on day 2 of your ski trip, the infamous “Second Day Syndrome”, with people who are unfit at highest risk.
Shape up before you go and stretch every day while you’re in the mountains, using video ski fit videos from our fitness partner My Life Tonic, at 50% discount using the code WHOSKI50.
3 Stick to the piste
The number of fatal accidents on marked slopes has declined in recent years. However, off-piste deaths have risen due to increased numbers of free-ride skiers combined with more unpredictable snow caused by greater variability in temperatures and conditions in mountain areas.
If off-piste or back-country skiing is your thing, the Swiss Centre for Accident Prevention advises you to take avalanche training, go out equipped with safety gear and – ideally – only head off-piste in the company of an expert local guide.
4 Swap downhill for cross country
XC skiing injuries represent just 1% of winter sports injuries and no, cross country skiing is not just for the oldies. GB Snowsport cross country athletes are enjoying unprecedented success, with Andrew Musgrave scoring a Top 10 World Cup performance in Lahti this month against an army of Norwegians.
Another advantage: cross country is cheaper than downhill skiing because you don’t need to buy a lift pass.
5 Leave sledging to the kids
‘Fun’ fact: more than two thirds of sledging injuries are suffered by adults. Stay sensible and step away from the sledge. Especially after you’ve spent an evening in Dick’s Tea Bar.
6 DON’T DRINK AND SKI / snowboard
For safety’s sake, steer clear of alcohol while you are on the slopes. Drinking impairs your judgement and balance, and increases your chances of not only injuring yourself, but also injuring others.
Be aware too, that if you are in the unfortunate situation of being involved in an accident, you are likely to be breathalysed by the piste police. This could both nullify your insurance and potentially lead to criminal charges. It is illegal to ski or snowboard under the influence of alcohol or drugs in countries including France and Italy as well as in certain US states.
Most importantly, every piste user should know and follow the FIS Rules of Conduct, the ‘Highway Code’ of the slopes. Read them on the Ski Club of GB website here.