There are plenty of gimmicks out there claiming to boost your skills on the slopes, but sometimes it’s best to stick to the basics when choosing equipment to improve your performance and stay injury-free. We asked orthopedic surgeon Travis Maak, M.D., of the University of Utah Orthopedic Center to offer his tips for gear that will improve your performance and help to prevent injuries.
Well-maintained skis and boards. It’s simple but makes a big difference — sharpen and wax your skis or snowboard at least once a year. You’ll get more control over your board from less friction and easier carving and turning, plus you’ll prevent the unpredictable catching that can cause falls.
Properly fitted bindings. A fitting is not the time to brag on your skills without the aptitude to back it up. You’ll get better performance out of your skis when your bindings are adjusted to your abilities, but they’ll also release at the right time to minimize injury in a fall.
The right poles. Pole guards protect your knuckles during ski racing, but the average skier should stick to regular grips with straps. “That shield will restrict your ability to release the pole from your hand in the case of a fall,” Dr. Maak says.
Polarized eyewear. They’re great for protecting your eyes against harmful UV rays, especially on sunny days with lots of glare off the snow, but there’s an added bonus —they do it without darkening your view. “That improves your ability to visualize bumps and changes in terrain that can destabilize you and lead to falls,” says Dr. Maak.
Take caution with hand-me-downs. Handing skis down from kid to kid can make a big difference in your budget, but be careful to refit skis for each child’s height and weight. “Each time you hand them down, go to a pro shop to make sure they are the right length and the bindings are the right size,” says Dr. Maak.
Soft sleeves, not metal braces. “Some people feel a neoprene sleeve on a knee that’s been injured before brings them more comfort and keeps any swelling down, and that’s fine,” says Dr. Maak. But stay away from metal braces unless your doctor prescribes them.
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