Tips for a Safe Ski Season

We just got 10 feet of snow in Lake Tahoe….and you are PUMPED UP!!! You feel totally ready to hit the slopes-maybe you even purchased some new equipment or a ski pass.  But are you really ready?

Ski Jump 242

Fortunately, alpine skiing injuries have decreased about fifty percent since the 1970’s thanks to advances in equipment and improvements in ski area management.  If you are injured, you are two times more likely to injure a lower extremity than an upper extremity.  In fact, about one third of all ski injuries occur at the knee joint.

Skiing Injuries- WHO, WHAT, WHERE WHEN


• Beginners

• HIGH speed advanced skiers

• Women


The most commonly injured ligaments in the knee are the medial collateral ligament (MCL), thumb injuries followed by anterior collateral ligament (ACL).









MCLInjuries (20-25% of all injuries)

The MCL or medial collateral ligament is the most common reason to end up talking to a person in a red jacket. This is the ligament on the inside of the knee.  It keeps the lower leg from forming an “L” shape or “valgus” position.  Ow!  The mechanism of injury frequently is a wide overzealous snowplow position.  It can also be caused by catching an inside edge at moderate speeds. The best way to prevent this injury is to keep up with the pre-season quad conditioning, make darn sure your bindings are set correctly and to avoid over-wide snowplow stances.

ACL Injuries (10-15%)

The second most common ski injury is the dreaded ACL- the anterior cruciate ligament.  It is the ligament that keeps your lower leg bone from slipping forward at the knee.  It accounts for 10-15% of all ski injuries.  Repairs and recoveries can make you wait a year to get back out on your beloved boards.  The mechanism of injury for this winner is a backward fall with skier off balance to the rear, hips below the knees, uphill arm back and weight on the inside edge of a downhill ski tail.  The best way to avoid this injury is to keep your weight centered and arms forward.  Again- if you feel a fall coming on- go ahead and fall! And fall forward!  Attempting to recover from an off balance position or get up while still moving are not a good idea.  Again pre-season conditioning focusing on good strong quadriceps and hamstring muscles, and plyometric (jumping) exercises can go a long way towards keeping you injury-free.

Meniscus (5-10%)

This occurs in approximately 5 -10% of all ski injuries, and is often hand in hand with ACL and MCL tear or sprain.  The menisci are made of fibrous cartilage and acts as shock absorbers between the femur and tibia bones that form the knee joint. Rotational stress with the knee flexed in a weight bearing position can injure the meniscus (a twisting fall).  Symptoms include swelling in the knee and often a “clicking” in the knee is felt with bending and straightening the knee.

Thumb (20%)

The most vulnerable area of the upper body is the thumb, specifically the metacarpo-phalangeal (MCP) joint.  Injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb is the second most common ski injury.  These injuries occur when a skier falls on an outstretched arm that is still gripping the pole.  The thumb is suddenly pulled outward, injuring this MCP joint.

Other injuries include:  shoulder dislocations, acromio-clavicular joint separation, collarbone fractures, and head YIKES!!!  Watch out for those trees and make sure to wear a helmet!

If you do happen to sustain an injury, make sure to ice 10 minutes 3-4 times a day.  If symptoms don’t improve, make sure to see a doctor.


Most injuries occur right before lunch and after 2pm.  Skiers tend to be tired and their muscles tend to be wiped out.  So recognize when you need a rest.  There is a reason you see more ski patrol toboggans rolling at the end of the day versus early on!


Make sure you aren’t forgetting about the most important piece in preventing ski injuries and increasing your skiing efficiency and enjoyment:  your physical condition.  Being physically ready for the demands of skiing will decrease your risk of being injured and improve your skiing ability and enjoyment.  By engaging in a pre-season ski conditioning program, you can take your skiing to new heights while avoiding the injury pitfalls.

What’s the best way to prepare your body for the rigors of skiing so that you don’t become an injury statistic? COME TO CPMC SKI conditioning program (Total Body Fitness)! It is comprehensive and contains the following components: development of the cardiovascular system, strength training, flexibility work, balance and agility exercises with explosive/coordination training.

Link to our Holiday Specials to get a great deal on the classes until Jan 15th.  Check back on Monday for our 4th week of ski conditioning videos.


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