Alpine sports are for enjoying, but they also present very real dangers. Click begin to explore the hazards both on and off-piste.

Begin

Equipment

Serious head injuries

Head injuries are a key concern for skiers. Some skiers wear helmets for protection against these injuries. Make sure that your helmet is free of cracks and fits properly. If you are not happy with your equipment get it replaced.

Ill-fitting ski wear

When hiring ski equipment, it is important to check that it fits properly. Beginners and children may want to consider smaller skis that are easier to manage. Condition is also important - damaged clothing and headgear may be lacking in insulation, and won't protect you from the extreme weather conditions you encounter on the mountains.

Icy walkways

A badly-cleared walkway can become dangerously slippery. If a pathway is posing a possible risk, be sure to report it immediately - 65% of resort injuries are caused by slipping on ice.

Ski Lift

Badly serviced ski-lifts

According to the US National Ski Areas Association, a person is five times more likely to suffer a fatality using a regular lift than a ski lift. However, accidents do happen, and a faulty or badly-serviced ski lift has the potential to cause chair detachment - particularly in high winds. If you're not comfortable with a particular ski lift, do not climb aboard.

Chair etiquette

An attendant is often on hand to oversee skiers getting on and off the lift, but it is important to make sure you take control of your own safety. Always ensure that the bar is completely lowered and keep your skis out of the way of the mechanism while riding.

The Summit

Avalanches and snow shifts

Although severe avalanches are relatively rare, snow shifts can be triggered by the movement of even a single skier, and can cause serious accidents. Resorts often provide details of the risk of avalanche using a 5 point scale. Pay attention to any warnings issued and follow the advice of your ski guide or instructor. Some resorts also provide avalanche training courses to help equip skiers with skills and knowledge about snow stability and avalanche risk.

Poor Visibility

Fog or snowfall can, without warning, make it extremely difficult to see ahead of you. If visibility is poor consider whether it is safe to continue skiing- trees, sudden drops or other skiers all pose significant threats if you are on a mountain in bad weather, however familiar you may be with it.

Sunburn, frostbite and hypothermia

Ensure that your clothing is appropriately weatherproof. Wear plenty of layers to protect against the low temperatures, and also remember that though it may be cold, snow is highly reflective so make sure you protect your skin and eyes from the sun.

Changing Weather

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Common Injuries

Torn ligaments

Torn ligaments in the knees account for approximately 30 - 40% of skiing injuries. It's important to build up strength and flexibility gradually before hitting the slopes, consider taking part in ski-specific fitness classes before your trip or practicing on a dry ski slope or in a snow dome. If you suffer an injury, call mountain rescue so you can receive the medical treatment you need as soon as possible. You may require physiotherapy or even surgery.

Skier's thumb

An injury that occurs when you fall on hard snow while still holding your poles, skier's thumb can lead to instability of the thumb and problems with mobility. Discarding your ski poles during a fall can help minimise the chance of injury.

Overexertion

If you are new to skiing, you may not be aware how physically tiring it can be. Lessen your susceptibility to common aches and strains by getting into a regular fitness regime before your trip and eating a high-protein diet for energy. Many gyms offer ski-specific fitness classes to help you get ready for your ski holiday. While on your holiday, make time for regular breaks and meals to reduce the risk of fatigue.

On Piste

Icy patches

When the snow compacts, icy patches can easily form on slopes, creating a much higher falling hazard. Pay attention to weather warnings and consider avoiding icy slopes if you are not confident skiing on ice.

Crash barriers

Crash barriers can cushion the blow of a mistimed turn or jump, but a high impact collision can result in severe injury. Barriers should be maintained to a reasonable standard, but you can reduce the chance of a high-impact crash by skiing at sensible speeds.

Snowmobile collision

Snowmobile collision is very rare, but does happen. Be sure to stick to marked trails and look out for vehicles on and off the piste. Skiing with a partner will aid with getting an eyewitness account of an incident. Report any accidents swiftly and in full detail.

Skiing Instructors

Any ski instructor who places you on a slope that isn't suitable for your ability level may be liable for any accidents that occur.

Loss of control

Skiing at high speed can increase the likelihood of an accident. Always ski at a safe speed for you and those around you, and check whether any of the slopes in the resort have a speed limit. Insurers may also refuse to pay out for accidents that occur under the influence of alcohol - something worth considering if you choose to drink on your holiday.

Colliding with other skiers

It is your responsibility to travel within your own ability and keep a proper lookout to avoid others. The International Ski Federation provides a code of conduct for skiers and snowboarders to help avoid accidents. If a collision does take place, gather contact details of those involved and any witnesses.

Off Piste

Unmarked trails

If you choose to ski on an unmarked trail, you are putting yourself in danger of becoming lost or injured in an unexpected avalanche or fall. Safe routes are marked for a reason - your insurer may not cover you if an accident takes place out of resort boundaries or as a result of non-compliance with resort rules.

Snow immersion suffocation

The result of a particularly heavy fall, snow immersion can pose a very serious risk of suffocation. Make sure you ski with a friend who can call for help if you do end up submerged. Always check the avalanche risk level before you ski, and consider whether you need a guide.

Ski guide

Off-piste, even experienced skiers should consider skiing with a guide as the terrain is unpredictable and it can be difficult to foresee hazards even if you are familiar with the local terrain.

Travelling without a partner

Always consider skiing with another person. Skiing alone makes it incredibly difficult to raise an alarm should you get into any sort of difficulty.

Piste Map

Explore the dangers on the mountain by clicking on one of the locations on the map below

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Irwin Mitchell