Learning How to Fall: Skis

Falls and accidents are unavoidable. If you’ve ever tried to ski or snowboard, you’ve likely taken a hit or two on your way down the mountain. However, new skiers may be surprised to learn that the wal you fall can increase or decrease the significance of your injury. Learning to fall is one of the first skills (yes, falling is a skill) a new skier should learn. If you don’t want to take a lesson, this tutorial is your next-best option. There are several falling techniques you should know; see below for a step-by-step guide for learning to fall on skis.  

Side crashing—When you fall on your side, do your best to avoid putting all the weight into your hips. Instead, use your arm to slap the ground as you hit, making sure to disperse the pressure throughout the limb. Spread your body as much as possible to increase the surface area, which will spread the impact evenly over your body. Don’t try to catch yourself with your elbow or wrist—you’ll likely break or dislocate something. 

Back crashing—This is one of the harder falls to anticipate, but it rarely happens on skis. Do your best to roll yourself to the ground and smash both arms into the ground to disperse the impact. Again, don’t try to break your fall with your elbow, shoulder, or wrist; keep your arms in front of you as much as possible while still allowing them to hit the ground before your tailbone. 

Front crashing—Another unusual fall for skiers, front crashes are easier to anticipate. When you fall, keep your hands in front of your face to avoid injury, but do not attempt to break your fall with the wrists, elbows, or shoulders. Instead, try to put the weight of the fall into your forearms, falling in a plank-like position. This will absorb the impact. 

Of course, the best way to prevent ski injuries is to avoid falling altogether. Always ski within your comfort zone and in control, and always wear the appropriate gear. However, when all else fails, practicing these techniques can save you weeks or months of recovery in the event of a bad accident. 

Three Colorado Ski Accidents That Made National Headlines

Colorado has some of the best skiing in the United States—perhaps the world. The Centennial State draws thousands of skiers and riders from all over the world each year, all in search of some gnarly powder to shred. With more skiers, however, comes a higher risk of injury. Hundreds, likely thousands of accidents occur on Colorado’s slopes. Some are more serious than others—some, in fact, make national headlines. Here are three unforgettable Colorado ski accidents that gained nation-wide attention.  

 Michael Kennedy Dies in Aspen
On New Year’s Eve Day in 1997, Robert F. Kennedy’s 39-year-old son died while skiing Aspen Mountain’s Copper Bowl. He had been playing football while skiing, a game he had developed and enjoyed for several decades. On this day, Kennedy lost his balance and caught an edge too close to the treeline. He careened head-first into a tree; Kennedy had not been wearing a helmet and died as a result of his injuries.  

Judge Rules Chairlift Pusher Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
In mid-January of 2016, snowboarder Seth Beckton shared a chairlift with skier Thomas Proesel at the Aspen Highlands ski area. After a short and allegedly innocuous conversation, Proesel pushed Beckton off the lift. The victim fell over twenty-five feet, but landed without injury in the fresh powder below. Beckton continued to ski the rest of the day, reporting the event later that evening at the behest of his friends. Several weeks later, Proeser was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  

Teller Lift in Keystone Collapses
In December of 1985, a lift at Keystone Moutain Resort failed completely when faulty weld breaks on a main pulley dropped the bullwheel, snapping the lift’s haul rope and sending passengers flying—some over forty feet. No passengers were killed, but two people later died from injuries sustained. This accident changed the way the lift industry maintained, inspected, and designed its equipment. Subsequently Lift Engineering, the designer behind the Teller Lift, went out of business.  

5 Celebrity Ski Accidents

Ski accidents are the great equalizer—no matter how wealthy, famous, or skilled a person is at the sport, mishaps are bound to occur. While personal accidents can be funny in retrospect, celebrity ski accidents seem to take on lives of their own. Perhaps it is because many of the best-known were fatal; perhaps because it’s entertaining to see the rich and famous fall flat on their butts. Regardless, these memorable mishaps have stood the test of time. Here are five unforgettable ski accidents to entertain, teach, and remind us that skiing is a dangerous sport, regardless of your net worth. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger—Who could forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accident in 2006? The Governator tripped over one of his ski poles while skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. The accident resulted in a broken femur, which was quickly operated on upon his return to Los Angeles. For a short time after the accident, Sun Valley renamed the trail “Arnold’s Run” to commemorate the event.  

Dieter Zetsche—While not a true “celebrity,” this German businessman deserves a spot on this list. While on vacation in Austria, he was whacked by a woman on a snowboard. The impact broke Zetsche’s shoulder, but he did not take any time off from work to tend to his injury; he returned to work following his vacation with his left arm in a sling.  

Heather Mills—Former model and ex-wife of Paul McCartney has quite an embarrassing ski story. While skiing on Moelltaler Glacier in Australia, she crashed into a plastic pole that had frozen solid. She shattered her shoulder blade, but reportedly told the media at the time: “That’s skiing, you know.” 

Angela Merkel—In 2014, German chancellor Angela Merkel joined the list of celebrities who have suffered moderate ski injuries. During a holiday in Switzerland, Merkel fractured her pelvis, forcing the world leader to cancel several meetings and trips in the weeks thereafter. Apparently, she didn’t even realize the pelvis was broken. 

Natasha Richardson—Who could forget the insane story of Natasha Richardson’s unlikely death? The British actress fell while taking a beginning ski lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec. She hit her head, but seemed fine. After refusing medical treatment, she returned to her hotel room. Around three hours later, she began to complain of a headache. She was taken to the hospital and died two days after the accident. Cause of death? Epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head. Wear your helmets, kids.  

Right in the Middle of a Wipeout

As a kid, I was a pretty cautious skier—always holding up the rear of my group of friends, opting for packed powder over glades and slalom runs over moguls. I was, however, a good skier. I started ski lessons at age five or six and was surprisingly dedicated to maintaining excellent form on the mountain. Despite my years of lessons, excessive caution got me into a few pretty terrible situations.

My most memorable crash was at the Cranmore Resort in North Conway, NH. I was around ten or eleven years old—already half a decade into my skiing career and tackling the hardest runs the mountain had to offer. Cranmore is a family resort, which means most of the runs are pretty tame. There is one, however, that rivals the black diamond runs at nearby Attitash and Wildcat–“Middle.”

I’d skied Middle a few times, but always in good conditions. On this particular day, the snow was hard-packed and iced over—not the best for a straight shot and steep run from the peak to the lodge. Per usual, I was holding up the rear; my friends had chosen to bomb down in segments, gaining speed for a few yards then slowing into a hockey stop. I, ever the cautious kid, was trying to “use the whole mountain” by taking shallow, conservative turns. By the time I got a quarter of the way down, my friends were already at the bottom.

At some point during the descent, I hit a particularly nasty patch of ice. This wouldn’t have been catastrophic on its own. However, I hit it while finishing a turn, caught an edge, and was sent flying full-speed down the mountain. Too icy to stop, I tried to move my ski tips to the side to slow down. This only worsened the situation as I caught another edge and began to lose balance. Here I was, a ten-year-old skier, flying straight down the toughest trail on the mountain, about to lose balance, when…

I fell. I don’t know if it was intentional or if the caught edge had done me in, but I fell hard. I lost almost every piece of equipment I was wearing—both skis, both poles, and (somehow) a glove. I tumbled and rolled right to the bottom of the slope, finally stopping just a few feet short of the wooden lodge entrance. I sat up, surveyed the situation, tested my arms and legs for broken bones (nothing broken), and, sobbing, collapsed.

Though I broke no bones on that fateful fall, I’d tumbled down at least a third of the mountain’s vertical. Unable to ski the rest of the day, my mother took me home so I could watch the bruises bloom on my arms and legs. When they did, I swear—I looked like Grimace. I still think about that fall every time I drive past Cranmore, and my family never lets me forget how ridiculous that stupid fall was.

Even Olympic Skiers Sometimes Pay a Price

Every Olympics, there are a few reminders that even the best skiers and snowboarders in the world can pay a price for their alpine passions, especially when they’re pushing the edge of how fast they can go. In many ways, this is our favorite kind of wipe out. What seemed brutal in the moment resulted in no big injury. It still earns mad respect from The Black and Blue Room. On the other hand, we’re also sure Totsuka must be disappointed that he wasn’t able to medal. We sincerely wish him a full and speedy recovery and a lot of success in his future pursuits in the Olympics and snowboarding. He’s only 16, after all!

 

Japanese snowboarder Yuto Totsuka. PyeongChang 2018. (Getty Images)