When people are thinking about going skiing for the first time or going on their first ski holiday, thoughts may fall to whether skiing is dangerous as a sport. By its very nature, skiing involves being out in winter conditions in a mountainous environment, which can be perceived as a dangerous place to undertake a sport. But is skiing really a dangerous sport?
How Dangerous Is Skiing For Beginners?
Those with no prior knowledge of skiing may be nervous, especially if they are starting to ski as an adult, or have no skiing experience themselves and are starting out their children for the first time. We tend to see skiing in the news more often associated with accidents or avalanches but how dangerous is it to learn to ski as a beginner?
It would be wrong to say that skiing is without risk because very few sports or activities are. All mountain sports in general carry an inherent level of risk in various areas, such as a risk of hurting yourself, a risk of others accidentally hurting you, or the risk of an incident on the mountain such as getting lost, exposure to cold, or the risk of avalanches.
As a beginner however, you are in controlled areas on slopes with gentle gradients. These areas are very accessible in the event of changing weather or should anything happen, generally at the bottom of the resort or if not, in areas where you can access them by gondolas easily. Ski lifts in these areas are slow magic carpets or drag lifts meaning these are easy to use and so should you fall this is only the same distance as falling while standing, and the risk is very small of hurting yourself.
Indeed, falling over is generally accepted as a rite of passage when learning to ski, but as long as you are skiing under control and in an area appropriate for your ability, the risk of any injury is very low. We always recommend taking an istructor so you can learn the proper techniques and progress with confidence, in control, and in a safe way. You can take private lessons or group lessons from beginner level.
Skiing vs Snowboarding – Which Is Safer?
Both skiing and snowboarding involve a lot of similar risks in terms of where you are practicing the sport, the only change really is the piece of equipment you are using, and how you use it.
The biggest difference between the two is the way you are attached to the skis or snowboard; ski bindings are designed to release you from the skis during a fall and these settings are according to your weight and ski ability, to minimise injury when you fall. Snowboard bindings do not release, but this is because it doesn’t present the same risk as both your feet are attached together to the snowboard so it’s harder to twist your legs. These differences mean you may be more likely to injure your upper body during a fall as a result of snowboarding, such as shoulders and wrists, whereas skiers are more likely to injure knees and legs.
If you were a beginner snowboarder, you would generally be expecting to fall over far more as the learning curve is steeper; however, apart from a few bruises, it’s unlikely this makes snowboarding less safe.
For those performing at a higher level, skiers on the whole often go faster than snowboarders of a similar level, so may be more likely to suffer a high-impact crash or fall which can increase the risk of injury. More skiers are involved in racing which again can result in high-speed falls.
However it’s worth mentioning that these generally occur at the expert level of these sports; that is people who are at the top level in their sport and are very aware of their limits and the increased risks they are taking.
What About The Dangers Of Freeriding Or Ski Touring?
For those who don’t know, freeriding or off-piste is riding in off-piste areas, areas that in Europe are not pisted, patrolled, or avalanche controlled. In America this is generally referred to as backcountry skiing. Often, people may ski tour to access places that are off the beaten track, which essentially means putting skins on your skis and walking up the mountain to access certain areas.
This type of skiing does pose an increased risk of danger from avalanches and also being injured in remote and difficult to access areas, however it’s something that should only be done by those who are competent and trained in using rescue equipment.
Skiers and snowboarders should also know where they are going, as the risks of getting lost in these environments can be very high. If you want to start freeriding or you are a wanting to go in a resort where you don’t have the knowledge of the local area, we highly recommend taking a mountain guide or off-piste guide with you to make sure you can explore safely and also ensuring you have the necessary insurance to cover off-piste heli rescue should something happen.
Is Freestyle Skiing And Snowboarding Dangerous?
Launching yourself off jumps and performing tricks in the snow park or off other features on the mountain is definitely going to increase your risk of injury, and it tends to be the young or young at heart that fancy the freedom and kudos that freestyle skiing brings! However of course crashes will happen, and there is an increased risk here of hurting yourself, but making sure you learn the correct techniques and don’t push yourself too hard too fast are key to being safe.
Is Cross Country Skiing Dangerous?
Cross country skiing is generally regarded as the safer cousin of alpine skiing, and is usually considered a safe sport that can be practiced by all ages. However again the environment in which the sport takes place carries inherent risks just like regular skiing. The difference with cross country skiing is that only your toe is attached to the ski leaving your heel free, which can mean you are more likely to fall over especially if you’re new to the sport. Serious injury is rare but it is possible to injure muscles and tendons just like in regular skiing. The biggest risk to beginners is when travelling down downhill sections of cross-country tracks, as these can be challenging in the beginning, and remembering not to push yourself beyond your limits especially when you are at altitude. We would definitely recommend taking lessons if you are new to the sport to make sure you progress safely until you are confident to go by yourself or with friends.
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