It’s that time of year again—the season when CU students are ditching their Friday classes and hitting the slopes for a day of fresh powder and crisp Rocky Mountain air.
Many are also experiencing a crash landing at the bottom of those slopes that sees them in a cast or hobbling across campus with crutches by the time Monday rolls around.
Cory Little, a 21-year-old senior history major, said that he was snowboarding at Keystone with some friends just before winter break when he injured himself.
“I was just going down the run and it was really icy that day and I just kind of caught an edge on my snowboard and ate it—broke my fall with my wrist,” Little said.
Little said that he grew up in Colorado and has been snowboarding his whole life, but that he hadn’t gone in a couple of years.
“This was my first time back and I broke my wrist,” he said.
Joey Isaacson, a 20-year-old junior advertising major, said he was trying to grind a rail at Keystone recently when he slipped off and injured his thumb. He said that he thought it was no big deal until he looked down and saw the blood soaking through his glove. His thumbnail had become partially detached from the skin.
“I was just going through the motions and I wasn’t focusing—that’s usually when you injure yourself,” Isaacson said.
Edward “Bogie” Foden, a 20-year-old junior psychology and international affairs major, said he was skiing at Keystone in November when he landed on his head during a back flip and gave himself a concussion.
He said that he couldn’t remember what he’d been doing that day, or anything that followed for the next five hours.
“It’s really important to wear a helmet,” Foden said. “A lot of kids think it looks cool not to wear a helmet and that’s a great way to get some serious permanent brain damage. If I wasn’t wearing a helmet I would have been a mess. I would have been a vegetable.”
Pip Baehler, assistant ski patrol director at Loveland Ski Area, said the injuries he sees the most are those to the shoulders, wrists, knees and head. He said that, while all injuries are common to both skiers and snowboarders, skiers are typically more prone to lower extremity injuries and snowboarders often experience injuries to the upper extremities.
Baehler said that having bindings tested every year is a good way to prevent leg injuries because it helps make sure that skis will come off properly if their owner takes a fall.
Snowboarders, he said, should learn how to fall more protectively, not stretching their arms out to cushion the impact.
“They just kind of need to fall more directly onto their torso and body instead of sticking something out,” Baehler said. “That’s when they usually do a shoulder or break a wrist.”
Baehler also said it’s important for skiers and snowboarders to stop and rest when they get tired.
“That’s one of the key things,” he said. “People get fatigued and overdo it a little bit and that’s when they get injured. Rest up occasionally, make sure your equipment is in good operating condition and stretch before you go out.”
Dominic Vellone, a ski patroller at Arapahoe Basin, said those on the slopes should have good control over their speed, know their equipment and respect their limits.
“That’s a big thing—people go way too fast. People try to get all extreme before they really learn to ski,” Vellone said.
Little said that speed is was what partially led to his accident in December. He said that he was going as fast as he could down the slope when he had to swerve to avoid a group of people and caught an edge on his board.
“Be perceptive to the things around you and the people around you,” he said.
Foden said a good way to be prepared when doing more extreme stunts is to talk to the people who have done them before.
“It’s always a good idea to ask the people on top of the jumps, especially in Colorado—there are so many pros around,” he said. “There’s bound to be someone up there that’s skied it and knows the speed and can kind of tell you what’s up. Just ask some advice. People are usually really friendly.”
Vellone said it’s helpful to know the conditions and the terrain before going out, especially in a season like this one where the snow pack is so thin. Although he said that the snow pack itself doesn’t seem to cause a rise or fall in the number of injuries, he also explained that people often end up going faster than they intend to because they expect more snow.
“It’s thin and variable and it’s not powder skiing, and people will still go in and ski it like it’s a 5-foot powder day,” he said.
Baehler said that taking lessons to learn how to ski or ride better and more adequately can help prevent injuries, but that they’re still going to happen.
“It’s a sport that people are going to fall down in, and when they fall they occasionally stick an arm out or twist a knee,” he said.
Many are still willing to hit the slopes despite the risk.
“I think it’s still worth it for sure,” Little said.
Those that do wage the risk of hitting the slopes tread cautiously.
“It’s never been hard for me to get back into skiing and going big because it’s like my favorite thing and I can’t stay away from it,” Foden said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Kaely Moore at Kaely.email@example.com.