Different stance, different techniques and different gear — but the distinctions between skiing and snowboarding don’t end there. The types of injuries that skiers and snowboarders can incur are different too, requiring the right preparation to stay safe on the slopes. We checked back in with Travis Maak, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with University of Utah Orthopedic Center, about how skiing and snowboarding injuries differ and how you can prevent them.
WHERE THEY OCCUR: Upper body for snowboarding, lower for skiing. Snowboarders instinctively put their hands out to break a fall, making wrist injuries common. Older skiers can also be more prone to elbow strains, shoulder dislocation or rotator cuff injuries. For skiing, it’s usually knee injuries or fractures to the tibia (shinbone) above the boot. “When you catch an edge, you have a huge rotational moment,” says Dr. Maak. “The board stops, you keep moving and your knee twists.”
GEAR GUIDELINES: For snowboarders, wrist guards are essential. Dr. Maak’s okay with soft sleeves for joint support, “but don’t wear anything that has metal or hard struts unless it’s been prescribed by a physician.” Don’t go too pliable with your snowboard boot — it needs to give support while still having flex. When buying skis, be honest about your abilities in your fitting; more experience means tighter bindings, and you’ll be risking injury if they’re too tight for your skill level.
HOW TO PREPARE: There are plenty of ways to strengthen the muscles that support your knees, but no way for a snowboarder to prepare his or her wrists for injury. “The only way to prevent wrist injury is to prevent falls,” says Dr. Maak. “The only way to prevent falls is to make your lower extremities stronger and more accustomed to the activity you’re doing.” Conditioning for both skiing and snowboarding should include anaerobic activity that builds the quadricep, gluteal, hamstring and core muscles. For skiing, try wall sits, leg presses, sit-ups and box jumps. For snowboarding, skip the jumping and double up on the wall sits. “You’re doing the same thing in a wall sit as when you’re in a snowboarding position going down the hill,” he says.