Even the experts crash. Here are their tips on how to avoid falling—and how to steer clear of injury when the inevitable occurs.
1. KEEP YOUR CORE STRONG The stronger you are, the better chance you have of not falling, because you'll be able to recover from a loss of balance before you lose control. And if you have great core strength and you do fall, you'll have less of a chance of getting hurt. Use weights and exercises to keep your stomach and back strong.
—Kim Reichhelm, director, Women's Ski Adventures, Crested Butte, Colo.
2. A PLAN OF (RE)ACTION As Forrest Gump said, "It happens. So when you realize that you're about to hit the ground, quickly plan for a safe outcome. The worst position is on your back with your knees bent. The best position is to get your chest on the snow and your legs extended. This lessens the chance of blowing out a knee. And always remember, "Once down, stay down. The biggest mistake people make is trying to stand up before they've stopped sliding.
—Michael Rogan, PSIA Demo Team instructor, Heavenly, Calif.
3. SIDESLIP TO SAFETY If you're in steep terrain or a no-fall zone and think you might lose your balance, sideslip. It's better to be humble than to be hurt. When you do fall, get your feet downhill in relation to your head, and try to stop as quickly as possible to avoid building up too much speed.
—Eric DesLauriers, director, All-Mountain Ski Pros, Sugarbowl, Calif.
4. LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO There's an old adage in skiing: "Look
where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. Seems obvious, but
people tend to focus on the hazard, not the escape route. Survival is all about line, and line is all about looking way ahead.
—Edie Thys, former U.S. downhiller, Dartmouth Skiway, N.H.
5. FEET IN THE AIR If you fall at high speed, try to keep your feet up. Avoid letting your skis catch the snow, and instead let the friction of your body slow you to a stop (provided, of course, there's no obstacle in your path; if there is, do what you can to avoid it). —Daron Rahlves, U.S. downhiller, Truckee, Calif.
6. STAY RELAXED, STAY ALERT Crashing without getting hurt is an art. To avoid injury, relax your muscles and roll with it. At the same time, to avoid greater catastrophe in a big-mountain environment, stay proactive and look for opportunities to dig into the slope and self-arrest. Don't be afraid to push your limits, but know when to back down. When you're scared, your ability to react fluidly is hindered, and you're more likely to make a mistake.
—Charlotte Moats, competitive freeskier, Jackson, Wyo.
7. REARWARD FALL? JUST LET GO The "phantom foot scenario is arguably the most dangerous of the common falls. It occurs during a rearward, twisting fall, when you're locked on the edge of one ski's tail, and it puts tremendous strain on your knee's anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. If you find yourself in
this situation, and there's no obstacle ahead, don't try to recover. That only puts more pressure on your knee. Instead, go down. Fall on your hip, hands forward, and keep your feet together until you slide to a stop. Your pride may sting, but your knee will likely be fine.
—Stu Campbell, SKI Magazine instruction director, Stowe, Vt.