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How to stay safe on the slopes this skiing and snowboarding season

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Posted at 2:52 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 16:52:38-05

HELENA — It's the skiing and snowboarding season, and here at St. Peters Health, they tell me ways how you can stay safe out there on the slopes.

In a research study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, they estimate around 600,000 ski injuries happen each year.

St. Peter's Health works alongside Great Divide Ski Area to help with medical situations on the mountain that occur during the ski and snowboard season. St. Peter's Health helps Great Divide with medical supplies, medics, and services to get them to the hospital if needed.

Injuries can be avoided if prepared properly. Dr. Jared Phelps at St. Peters Health says there is one piece of equipment that's crucial to wear when skiing or snowboarding that some people seem to forget, the helmet.

"There's never a good reason not to wear a helmet there. Well, whatever injury you may sustain, it would always be worse without the helmet. So if it's a mild concussion, you would have been better off with the helmet. If it's a devastating brain injury, you would have been better off with the helmet," said Phelps.

But wearing a helmet doesn't make you invincible. A study done at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire found helmeted skiers and snowboarders evaluated at a level I trauma center were more likely to suffer severe injury and reinforced the importance of safe skiing practices.

Phelps works in St Peter's Emergency Department and is also on the Medical Ski Patrol at Great Divide, and highlighted the injuries are caused by reckless behavior.

"Make sure that you have appropriately sized and fitted equipment. Make sure that your ski bindings are set to appropriate weight, and then always you ski within your ability, ski or snowboard within your ability, stay in control at all times and follow the posted signs and things on the hill," said Phelps.

Other health-related considerations include staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, and wearing proper clothing, a hat, and gloves to prevent frostbite or hypothermia.

"Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol will increase your risk of suffering an injury or injuring others. And, um, hydration is always important. Drinking fluids, sports drinks or water while you're up there will help you perform better and be have a better day overall," said Phelps.

Members at St. Peter's Health and Great Divide Ski Area say when you are skiing and/or snowboarding you should let people know where you are going and avoid going out alone.