Simple Do’s and Don’ts of Hitting the Slopes

As soon as the first good snow arrives each year, millions of adrenaline junkies head for the hills to enjoy the thrills of winter sports. Snowboarding, skiing, and even tubing are among the most popular wintertime sports, with some 51 million people visiting US ski resorts every year. Many of them have been enjoying the slopes for years (or decades), but each winter brings some brand-new skiers and snowboarders to the sport for the first time. With the huge increase in cycling North America saw during the pandemic, it’s reasonable to expect that even more people than usual will spend more time outdoors in winter 21/22, as well.

Unfortunately, even with a fresh blanket of snow as a cushion, speed means that injuries are a regular occurence in snowboarding and skiing. Indeed, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy, bruises and broken bones on the extremities and hands are by far the most common non-life-threatening injuries. However, when it comes to serious injuries and death, impacts to the head are the leading cause.

If you’re new to winter sports or simply want a quick refresher on how to protect yourself and your family, you’re in the right place. Let’s quickly cover some “do’s and don’ts” to help make your next ski trip a safe and successful one.

Do: Invest in Reliable Gear

The CIRP recommends skiers and snowboarders wear helmets specifically designed for each sport, as well as secure boots and bindings, sunscreen, wrist guards (for snowboarders), and goggles that properly fit your head and eyes. Goggles should fit snugly, and can protect your eyes from not only the snow and ice, but the sun as well. There are a wide variety of price points at which you can purchase this equipment, and it’s important to know where to splurge and when to save. For goggles and helmets, WaveCel partners with Anon Optics, a subsidiary of Burton Snowboards. Anon’s WaveCel-equipped helmets are the best protection you can buy for your brain, and their goggles and facemasks fit and look great, no matter your style.

If you’re a new or unconvinced traveler, you’ll likely want to rent gear from the mountain or borrow from a friend to get a good idea of what sizes and styles work for you. However, as soon as you’ve decided to spend some time in the sport, you’ll want to purchase your own helmet, boots, and bindings. You don’t want to risk such important safety gear being ill-fitting, damaged, or under-maintained. Plus, you’ll find that it’s much more enjoyable to go up in your own gear, knowing exactly how it all fits and feels together. And if you think ahead, you can always get your hands on great specials at “end of season” or holiday sales, such as REI’s annual garage sale or Anon’s MLK Day sale in January.

Don’t: Skip the Bunny Slopes

We know you love speed — it’s the whole point, right? So we’d never suggest you slow down. But if you’re going to go fast, go protected. The average speed of a recreational skier is between 20 and 40 miles per hour. No matter how experienced you are, that’s more than fast enough to cause serious damage to your bones and vital organs.

If you’re inexperienced (or it’s been a while), don’t let your ego get ahead of you: hit the bunny slopes first to get warmed up — before you try anything more difficult.

Many new skiers think the hardest thing will be remaining upright, but it’s much more important to make sure you know how to stop when you want to, as well as changing directions when you need. Equally important is being able to get back up onto your skis or board when you fall down: if you fall in the path of others coming down the slope, you need to be able to get out of their way quickly before you both get injured.

Do: Always, Always Wear Your Helmet, No Matter Where You Are.

We get it: you’re doing it for the ‘gram. But even Anon’s top ambassadors wear their helmets, whether they’re at a resort or in the backcountry, and you should, too. Even seemingly minor falls can lead to brain injuries that have long-term effects on individuals of all ages. Though they range from mild to severe, they are associated with everything from loss of consciousness to sensory problems, concentration issues, slurred speech, and mood swings. And while velocity is definitely a factor in injury severity, studies indicate that even low-speed impacts at all angles can have life-altering consequences.

Do: Plan Ahead & Communicate Clearly

Head bumps are not the only reason you need to wear your safety gear. Even a light head injury is enough to cause loss of consciousness or disorientation. If you’re alone and have a fall, you could easily become disoriented enough to get lost or succumb to hypothermia. It’s called an extreme sport for a reason, and it’s vital that you respect the elements. Much like cycling and hiking, you need to communicate your planned location and return time before you leave, especially if you’re adventuring alone.

You should also double-check the weather before heading out. Even if the weather looked great when you left your home or hotel, mountain weather changes quickly, and can look completely different on one side of the mountain from the other. At ski resorts and national or state parks, you’ll be able to access up-to-date weather alerts — including mountain warnings or closures — from park employees and websites.

Don’t: Assume that “Any Helmet” Will Do

Using sports gear designed for one specific sport during another activity can be a tragic and sometimes fatal mistake. Although helmets years ago were made to simply protect the head, today’s modern helmets are carefully engineered for each sport. It may go without saying, but you should never use a helmet for an “off-label” activity. Only use helmets designed for snow sports on the mountain — this is not a place to skimp or save.

If you want the best protection available, we recommend one of Anon’s exclusive WaveCel-equipped helmets. Currently, three models are available for adults with one model for kids new this year.

WaveCel helmets are lined with a three-dimensional material of collapsible cells. Unlike foam padding, these cells flex, crumple, and glide upon impact, helping to absorb rotational energy rather than transferring it to the head and brain. Considering the speeds and angles at which skiers and snowboarders move, this is an essential layer of protection — especially for newcomers to the sport.

Do: Get the Whole Family Involved

Skiing and snowboarding are excellent sports for youngsters: kids have no fear of falling, and they’re closer to the ground when they do fall! Although there are always risks involved, kids often learn safety and skill in skiing and snowboarding even faster than adults. And more skill means fewer falls and injuries. In fact, the younger they get started, the more likely they’ll be to enjoy a long, satisfying career on the slopes.

Every adult who has started skiing later in life knows the simultaneous feeling of jealousy and adoration of seeing a tiny human skiing circles around them. Of course, it’s also important to imbue kids with proper safety awareness from the very beginning. One way to do that is to get the entire family involved in the gear shopping process.

For the first time ever, there is a kid-sized WaveCel snowboarding helmet available. The Windham helmet from Anon is one of the best pieces of protective gear available to ensure maximum protection for children of all ages. Like the adult Windham, these helmets are priced for affordability without compromising style or the best protection on the market.

Don’t: Hit the Slopes Without WaveCel

The great outdoors are meant to be enjoyed. So grab your friends and family and hit the hills for a weekend of skiing or snowboarding. But no matter how experienced you and your loved ones are, respect the risks of wintry conditions, high speeds, and tall slopes. With a WaveCel helmet, you can ensure you have the very best protection on the mountain, and are well-equipped to leave potential brain injuries out of your story. Shop WaveCel Snow helmets.