From first-timers to seasoned skiers, everyone falls while skiing. Rather than pretend it’ll never happen, it’s much easier to learn how to get up after a skiing fall. The right strategy will help you avoid injury, frustration, and exhaustion.
Most falls are small but struggling to get back up can be embarrassing and tiring. In this guide, we’ll give you a detailed walkthrough of the best ways to fall, the best methods to right yourself, and some tips to keep in mind for the future.
Don’t Fight The Fall
We’ve all been there…one minute, you’re cruising down the slopes, and the next, you’re off balance and about to take a tumble. If you lose balance, don’t fight it; accept that a fall is going to happen, and try to diffuse the impact. Straining to prevent a fall can lead to more injuries.
When we’re falling, we try to brace by sticking an arm, hand, or shoulder out. These reactions are natural but also concentrate all impact forces in one or two places. The result? Broken wrists, hands, popped shoulders, or snapped collarbones.
As you start falling, let go of your ski pole grips. Then, keep your arms at your side and try to land on your side. If the length of your arm takes the impact in one fluid movement, the impact forces diffuse.
If you fall forward, use your whole forearm, like you're about to do a plank, to help spread the impact and protect your head. If you fall backward, throw your arms out to your sides to diffuse the impact.
How To Get Up With Skis On
If you fall down with both skis on, take your pole straps off, and stick the pole tips in the snow, away from your immediate area. Then, think of the acronym SUITS RUST.
- Skis Underneath. The position of your skis matters. Move your body until your skis are close together, below your body, which should be in a crouched position, and pointing across the ski slope.
- Incremental. Skis are large and awkward, don’t try to heave them about with big movements. Instead, use small, incremental movements, one ski at a time.
- Touch. With skis below your body, place your hands on the snow above the knee that is a few inches higher than the other one, i.e., the uphill knee.
- Semi-circle. Either draw or visualize a semi-circle connecting your hands to the tips or front of your skis. The arc of the semi-circle is more helpful than a straight line.
- Rear Up. With your hands on the snow as support, raise your rear up into the air and keep your head down. This is an important step!
- Start Tracing. Walk both hands forward, tracing the arc of the semi-circle and pushing against the snow with every movement. You’ll feel a bit of strain, but as your hands move forward with your butt in the air, the rest of your upper body will tilt back to center. Engage your legs until you're standing on your skis. Lift your head up, and you’re good to go!
The Push-Off, Push-Up, And One-Ski Methods
If the semi-circle routine doesn’t work, there are alternatives. Every scenario starts the same way. Keep your skis together and move them incrementally until they are beneath your body and pointing across the ski slope.
Push-Off: First, if you are on steep terrain, use your arms to push off against the slope. Ski poles can also work as an extra brace. Just remember that ski poles can bend or snap if you push too hard, so have one hand grab the baskets and wrap the other around the top of the ski pole grips.
Push-Up: This strategy works best on shallow slopes. With skis underneath you, flip onto your stomach and raise your skis into the air.
Slowly turn your feet out so that your skis are facing opposite directions. Bring the skis back to the ground; they should be in a V shape, with tips pointing uphill.
Please note the circle in the photo above. It’s important to spread your skis wide enough so that they are not overlapping or touching.
Now, use your arms to push against the slope while raising your rear. Walk your hands downslope towards your boots until you can engage your legs. Once up, pick one ski, and with small steps, work it across the slope until it’s pointing in the same direction as the other one.
One Ski: If nothing works, take a ski off. Go for your uphill ski, which is the ski that's slightly above the other one when they’re both pointing across the slope. Your downhill ski holds the lion’s share of your weight, so keep that one on.
Now, with one ski off, brace with your downhill ski, and push up with your free boot. Once up, grab the other ski and use it to dig a flat platform across the slope. It doesn’t have to be massive, just flat enough to hold the ski and long enough to comfortably cover the length of your boot bindings.
Carefully clip back in and continue skiing. If there's snow on your boot foot bottom, make sure to scrape it off first, or you’ll have trouble clipping in.
What If Both Skis Come Off?
If both skis pop off, locate and retrieve them. In soft snow, this may be difficult.
Determine if the slope is too steep to get back into your bindings. If it is, walk to a flatter spot. Ski boots work best when you use heel-to-toe movements. If you need more support while walking downhill, slam the heels into the slope. Avoid turning your boots sideways; it’s easier to fall that way.
Find or create a bench across the slope’s width. Set one ski on the bench. Then, move your body above the ski. Remember to check for snow buildup, which can prevent boots from clipping into bindings. Scrape it off with a hard, flat edge.
Once your boots are clear of snow, clip in. With the downhill ski on, it should be a lot easier to repeat the process with your uphill ski. Scrape any snow off the other boot and clip in.
Common Mistakes People Make
There are a few key mistakes people tend to make after falling.
Taking Both Skis Off Too Fast
Ski boots are not very balanced, so relying on them in steeper terrain could easily lead to more falls or sliding. If you can’t get up with both skis on, try the one-ski method first.
Forgetting Snow Buildup
Feel or look at the soles of your boots. If there’s snow buildup, scrape it off with a ski pole, snow scraper, or, in a pinch, an old credit card. If there’s too much snow on your boots, your bindings won’t work correctly.
Over-relying On Your Knees
Sometimes, you’ll see kids get back up by scooting their butts over their skis and straining their knees to pull their bodies up. Kids can do that because their body sizes are smaller, so there's less weight to pull up. If you’re an adult, the chances of tearing a knee ligament are much higher.
Not Asking For Help
Skiing is hard. It’s not embarrassing to ask for help. When someone does help, don’t lean all your weight on them; instead, use your muscles in tandem with their efforts to get back to your feet.
Not Understanding The Mountain
Each ski hill has a ski slope rating system; study this. If you know what the slope colors and symbols mean, you radically reduce the chances of ending up on steep terrain where falling is more likely.
Bindings In The Wrong Position
Look at your bindings when you clip in. A piece of the binding behind your heel snaps up to lock you in place. If both skis come off, check to see if that binding piece is raised. If it is, you won’t be able to clip back in. Press the raised piece down before trying to slam your boot in.
5 Tips To Help You Get Up Easily
Here are some simple ways to get your body ready for future falls.
- Don’t skip leg day! Squats and wall sits are great ways to build up your leg muscles, which you’ll need.
- Stretch! Find a good stretching routine that hits your legs, arms, and back. At a minimum, you should be able to touch your toes comfortably.
- Hydrate! Skiing is labor intensive, and adding a muscle cramp to the mix invites further pain.
- Cardio! Running, biking, or using stationary machines in a gym are great ways to increase your cardio. Better cardio means you don’t get tired as easily, and a tired skier is much more likely to fall.
- Know when to call it. If you’re skiing and notice that you’re falling more on easier runs, that’s a crystal clear sign to pack it in. The phrase “one more run” is responsible for thousands of ski-related accidents.
Falling is a part of skiing. I don’t know of anyone who has become a good skier without falling multiple times. Using the strategies and methods in the detailed walkthrough above, you can recover faster, prevent unnecessary muscle fatigue and avoid bigger injuries.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.