Mountains are for making memories and—unfortunately—injuries. There’s nothing like the thrill snowboarders and skiers get from hitting the slopes on a powder day, but it’s crucial to play it safe and prevent injuries. Katelyn Colosi, Sports Medicine Physician Assistant of Connecticut Children’s Sports Medicine team explores 8 key ways winter athletes can stay injury free.

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1. Always, always have a warm-up routine.

Before hitting the slopes, stretch thoroughly. This will prepare the muscles for the physically challenging day ahead. Active warm-ups are key to getting your muscles primed for stretching, especially for cold weather sports! When stretching, encourage your skier or snowboarder to focus on the lower body, including:

  • Hamstrings: a group of muscles in back of the thighs
  • Quadriceps: a group of muscles in front of the thighs 
  • Calves: a group of muscles in back of the lower leg

These three muscle groups are the stars of the show when it comes to racing down the mountain, so they need all the care they can get. Please don’t skip this step no matter what. 

>Related: Why Athletes Should Take it Easy When Returning to Sports After a Break

2. Listen to your body and know your limits.

Challenge is a good thing, but we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay in your skill level until you are truly ready to move to the next step. That could mean staying on clearer trails instead of tree-heavy terrain, or staying on level blue instead of jumping right to black.

This strategy can really help reduce the risk of falls and collisions.   

>Related: Meet Luna, Superstar Skier 

3. Wear the proper gear and equipment.

High-quality and well-fitting gear are key and well worth the price.  Work with professionals to make sure: 

  • All ski or snowboard bindings are adjusted correctly 
  • The helmet actually fits 
  • Wrist guards for beginner snowboarders are used properly 

Stating the obvious here—do not skip this step!  

4. Stay hydrated and eat well. 

You might not always feel “thirsty” when you’re freezing, but drinking plenty of water is still crucial to performance and health. Dehydration can:  

  • Affect overall focus on the sport 
  • Impact reaction time when making an important move
  • Cause fatigue, which is dangerous for anyone on the slopes

So, stay hydrated and eat well. It’s all about balance. 

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5. Take breaks.

Give your body the rest it needs—when it needs it. This will help with muscle fatigue and concentration. Don’t overdo it.  

6. Embrace the falls, but do it the right way.

In winter sports, falls are inevitable. Learning how to fall safely can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Practice rolling instead of bracing yourself with outstretched arms, which can lead to wrist injuries.   

>Related: Beyond a Wrist Injury: Arianna's Story

7. Watch your surroundings while on the slopes.

Just as you would while driving, share the mountains, and be careful.  

  • Watch out for other skiers and snowboarders,   
  • Stick to trail markings and don’t veer off, and 
  • Follow all posted signs.   

Practicing these steps will help avoid collisions, a common cause of injury for skiers and snowboarders.    

8. Take lessons!

Everyone, no matter their level, can benefit from a ski or snowboarding lesson from a certified instructor.   It’s a win-win: valuable guidance on technique, safety measures, and proper etiquette on the slopes.   

By incorporating these injury prevention tips into your skiing or snowboarding routine, you can enjoy the winter wonderland with confidence. Remember, safety should always be a priority to ensure a season filled with thrilling descents and memorable moments on the mountains.   

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