Dr. Kevan Orvitz
      Dr. Kevan Orvitz

Its Snow Easy

Origins of Snow Skiing


Historically, snow skiing originated as a logical way to transport people and goods in the snowy regions of what are now called Norway, Sweden and Finland. These early people carved long narrow pieces of wood and tied them to their feet in order to allow them to glide over the snow and quickly get to their destination. Amazingly, cave drawings date the earliest snow skis to around 5000 BC. While these skis do not compare to the technology of today with fiberglass skis, releasable bindings and balance promoting ski insoles, they were quite an ingenious invention. Skiing would also be used for hunting and later for strategic military operations. Today we mainly view skiing as a source of recreation or as a competitive sport with many variations of racing (downhill or cross-country) or jumping on skis.


Risks of snow skiing


Some of the risks of snow skiing are the same as any outdoor winter sport and include the risks of hypothermia (injury from the body’s core becoming too cold) and frostbite (injury from the skin becoming too cold). Symptoms of hypothermia include change in mental awareness, stiff muscles, irregular heartbeat and breathing. Symptoms of frostbite include discolored (yellow, gray, very red) uncomfortable skin, pain and tingling. These should be treated immediately with the help of a medical professional.

Other risks include broken bones (modern equipment has reduced, but not eliminated this risk), sprains, strains and muscle pulls. Knee injuries are the most common type of ski-related injury accounting for 30-40% of all skiing injuries. Knee injuries are usually caused by the twisting forces generated by a fall and involve ligament damage to one degree or another.


Preventing skiing injuries


Preventing cold related injuries is accomplished by wearing appropriate outdoor apparel. Skiers should wear both inner and outer clothing made from moisture resistant non-cotton fabric. Clothing should be layered to hold in heat and keep out moisture. Proper jackets, goggles, hats or ski masks and gloves should be worn. Well made, insulated ski boots with a pair of moisture resistant ski insoles are also called for.

Preventing broken bones and ligament damage can be best accomplished by eliminating falls. While not all falls can be eliminated, they can be drastically reduced by improving the skier’s alignment. A properly aligned skier is more efficient, uses less energy and has more control—thus, falls less often.


Achieving proper alignment


Achieving proper alignment is accomplished by addressing four aspects that are:

  1. Wearing the right type of ski boot
  2. Proper sizing of the boot and skis
  3. Canting strips
  4. Good ski insoles

A good set of ski insoles is imperative to proper alignment because they will support and distribute the skier’s weight over their entire foot and will increase the response when pressure is applied to the ski or edge. A good pair of insoles will also increase the skier’s comfort level and allow for more natural movement of the foot and ankle to occur.


Summary


While skiing would appear to have existed for over 7000 years, many advances have been made in the last decade. While most of the advances in ski equipment have been made to reduce injuries, they still occur. Further reducing your risk of injury during skiing depends on dressing appropriately for the weather and wearing a properly fitted ski boot with a good ski insole to increase proper alignment and reduce the risk of falling.