Expert advice on enjoying fresh snow on the mountain safely

KILLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The fresh snow may be just the inspiration some people need to get out on the mountain to make some turns. But there are health risks that come along with sports like skiing and snowboarding. Our Adam Sullivan has more on the dangers and what can be done to avoid them.

There are commonsense ways to stay safe on the mountain. Wear a helmet to protect your head and bundle up when it's really cold.

There are also a lot of benefits.

"There is a great aspect to skiing that is about health and being outdoors," said Cami Richardson of Park City, Utah. "It's not only the intangibles of getting exercise, it's being outdoors."

But there are risks to skiing and riding. Doctors say snowboarders are prone to wrist and ankles injuries. For skiers, making turns takes a toll on the knees.

"The knee is subjected to a lot of torque both during downhill skiing and skate-skiing cross-country style," Dr. Ivan Tomek said.

Tomek is an orthopedic surgeon at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon. His team does about 1,200 surgeries a year. Many of them are for hip and knee injuries.

"Most of the stuff we would do here is not off the hill and into the operating room type of injury, most of it is stuff that has been injured and is perhaps not healing as quickly or as well as we would like," Tomek explained.

Jennifer Hopkins knows what it's like to sustain a serious ski injury.

"I tore my ACL twice when I was in high school," she said.

The former racer is a physician's assistant at the Vermont Orthopaedic Clinic in Rutland. She also coaches on weekends.

"Always stay in control, always inspect your equipment and make sure that it is well-functioning and appropriately sized to you and your ability level," Hopkins said.

And while injuries can happen on the mountain even when you keep safety in mind, doctors say the physical activity is great for building muscle and increasing stamina.

"It is a sport you can go back to even after you have had your hip and or knee replaced," Tomek said. "So I think the benefits, even though there are risks to all activities, the benefits by far outweigh the risks."

And the experts say it's important to know your limits and ski terrain that's within your ability so you don't have to miss any powder runs on the mountain because of unexpected trips to the hospital.