Based on the overwhelming number of reader responses about on slope hits and near misses, it’s probably safe to say that skiing has become a contact sport.  Body armor products aren’t far behind.

Most of us got our first taste of protective gear when we donned helmets. I resisted a few years. Then word of head injuries started circulating, and I decided to give helmets a try. They’re comfortable, warm, and handy when skiing the trees. I never went back.

Europeans and ski racers have been using protective gear for years. Punch covers, forearm guards, and shin guards protect racers negotiating gates. The All Sport

Back protector by POC

Protection website lists a variety of protective products for skier bodies, including entire suits of armor, not dissimialr to those used by motorcyclists. The site is oriented to big air youngsters who subject themselves to big falls.

European skiers are well accustomed to using spine protectors. These padded devices are said to reduce spinal impact during hard falls. My understanding is that kids racing in the EU are required to use them.

Coming Soon to Your Back?

Based on the content of promotional emails and my participation on a ski product panel, it appears that spine protectors (aka back protectors) are the next big thing in safety gear for the North American ski market.

Slowing Down

I gave up speed a long time ago and for the past few decades have preferred to ski slowly and gracefully, regardless of terrain. 

Because that may make me more of a target for unwitting, unskilled, and irresponsible boarders and skiers, I practice defensive skiing. Busy days, I ski, literally, on the edge of slopes and trails, figuring that I’m minimizing exposure to others. And, I’m always glancing uphill to see what might be barreling my way.  

Importantly, if some jerk gets dangerously close, I do my best to catch up and explain that what he/she/they did is unacceptable.

As for patrol, I respect them for everything they do to protect us from avalanche and obstacles and for helping the injured get the help they need. But I rarely see patrol stop a reckless rider.

As we older skiers enter a new season, on-snow safety is a big concern. We can put on the body armor. We can voice our concerns to area and patrol management . Or, we can ski defensively; glancing around us as we work our way down the hill and avoiding overly crowded terrain.

If you have your own techniques for avoiding skiing injuries, we’d be happy to share them with other readers.

New Take on Cable Delivery?

Credit: AP

A pilot in Italy tangled his plane in the chairlift cables of Prato Valentino last Sunday in the Italian Alps. The pilot was thrown to the ground and taken to the local hospital. His passenger, trapped inside, was rescued, unharmed, by emergency workers.

Scottish Cancer Survivor Skis 120 Consecutive Months

Credit: CTVNews

Helen Rennie, 65, an Inverness school teacher, has been skiing monthly in the Scottish Highlands since 2009. She started in 2006 but was stopped several months later when diagnosed with esophogeal cancer. There are times when she hikes miles to reach a patch of snow where she takes a few turns. Talk out grit and determination!

New Documentary on First US Amputee Skier

Paul Leimkuehler lost his leg during the Battle of the Bulge. He returned home and designed the first ski outriggers in the US. His innovation launched the adoptive skiing movement which liberated many from their wheelchairs, allowing them to expeience the freedom and joy and skiing.  Now his granddaughter, Katie Leimkuehler, has produced a fascinating documentary on her grandfather’s life and accomplishments. It’s called Fresh Tracks and premiers December 12 in Breckenridge at the Hartford Ski Spectacular sponsored by Disabled Sports USA. More info on future showings will appear as they become known. Watch a short based on the film here.

Versatile and Super-Bright Compact Flashlight

Just started using the Fenix LD 30 flashlight. It comes with a rechargeable Li-ion battery. A small button transfers between five light settings, the brightest of which is an impressive 1600 lumens. The light also has a strobe setting. It’s about 4.25” long and 1” wide, comes with a carrying case and a USB cable for recharging. This is ideal for pack, car, boat, basement or garage. MSRP: $79.95. Available at


  1. Michael T Dimin says:

    As a member of the Patrol, I ALWAYS try to stop and politely talk to reckless skiers. The “on your left”, the downhill skiers right of way, and other parts of the Skiers Responsibility Code are long gone. We, as members of the patrol do our best to educate. The days of pulling tickets are long gone

    • Michael, thank you for doing what you can to educate reckless skiers/boarders. But why do you say the days of pulling tickets are long gone? Why is that not used as a deterrent?

    • Rex Cochran says:

      Actually, in my opinion, not pulling a ticket could subject the Resort to liability since most slopes post signs warning that tickets will be pulled if skiing out of control…therefore, skiers assume that patrol will enforce this rule. Patrol should at least have a record of some attempt of enforcement if held liable. Just signing a waiver does not relieve slopes of negligence, again, in my opinion.
      This reply from someone that was hit from behind and suffered a season ending knee injury. .

  2. As a long time patrolman (Retired in 1988) I remember the days when at one area I had to enforce a strict no jumping rule. Today that area has a terrain park full of jumps. Almost all of the patrol enforcement today is by patrollers stationed by slow signs in lift approach areas. Mostly their presence is enough, but occasionally they will flag down a speeding skier and politely ask him (It’s never a her) to slow down in such areas. I now ski mid week at the larger areas and ski weekends only at smaller areas. I have passed the age where I used to say, “The fastest skier on the hill never gets hit from behind”. I will say that it’s not the racer who presents a problem but young males skiing well beyond their ability. But this has always been a trait of young males in everything they do. Enjoy the season.

  3. I, too, ski the sides of trails On busy days, but find I am constantly checking my side to see if someone is suddenly going be charging out of the woods at me.

  4. When snow boarding became popular, I found that there were many boarders who did not respect skiers, Now, I have foiund hat they are far more respectful. When I have multiple resorts to ski in a day. such as in Salt Lake City, I avoid Brighton because of the preponderance of boarders and skiers. Yes, even skiers can be dangerous!!!

  5. Skiing is not a contact sport. Hockey is. Body armor to protect you from idiots is entirely a different animal than helmets to protect you from your mistakes. At Vail this past year I notice they post the number of lift passes they voided for reckless and dangerous and skiing. This make much more sense than saying protect yourself with armor and let every one ski as wild as they want. Perhaps a few class action lawsuits against the lame do nothing management of many resorts would bring skiing back to a safe and pleasurable sport. Any lawyers here want to start? Ill be first in line to join the group.

  6. Jeff GermanSometimes says:

    Sometimes the best ski defense is a sharp series of turns. Like driving on the road, downhill vision and anticipation by surveying the terrain keeps me safe and standing at the end of the day

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