World Cup Skiing
January 11, 2017 | by Phillip B. Arnold DO

Dr. Phillip Arnold is a physician for the U.S. Ski Team and has traveled to more than 20 World Cup events. He provides his insight and expertise on how to stay healthy and safe when skiing this winter.

I recently returned from Beida Lake, China as our U.S. Ski Team competed in the aerial individual and team events to open up the 2016-2017 World Cup season. It’s fascinating to see some of the best athletes in world shoot down a slope and fly through the air. The amount of speed, force and impact skiers go through takes a toll on the body.

As one of the physicians for the U.S. Ski Team, I’ve witnessed firsthand how these athletes prepare for these events, treat injuries, and fuel themselves to compete at the highest level. Whether it’s aerials, freestyle, moguls, or just a casual descent down the mountain, it’s important to prepare for your trip to stay healthy and injury free.

How to Prepare for Your Next Skip Trip

Research Your Ski Gear

Most people know what to wear when going up on the mountains. The North Face and Patagonia jackets and pants aside, it’s important to have the proper attire and gear when skiing.

  • Research your ski gear to help you have a safe and comfortable ride down the mountain.
  • Make sure to have up-to-date and a properly fitted gear, including helmet, eyewear, gloves, ski boots and skis before heading out.
  • Wear moisture-wicking layers underneath your ski attire to stay dry. If you plan to take backcountry paths, you will want to carry avalanche safety gear in case of an emergency.

The great part about living in the Pacific Northwest is that we have many local outdoor stores that offer a variety of quality skiing gear and expertise from staff.

Protect Your Skin

The nature of skiing means that your head and neck are most likely to be affected by the sun through direct and indirect exposure. When you are on snow, there is an increase chance of sunburn in those exposed areas.

  • Wear the proper head and eye gear.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or above.
  • Carry chap stick to moisture your lips regularly.
  • Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated even in the cold.


You’ve heard it before, but a good breakfast is essential for any exercise, including skiing. The average skier burns 300-600 calories per hour, so you want to have something in your body to get you energized for the day.

  • Have snacks available in your jacket or backpack. These can come in handy in the middle of your run or as a light lunch. Nuts, granola bars, and trail mix are some great options as they contain carbohydrates and proteins to fuel you through your ski runs.
  • Eat a post-ski dinner to help your muscles recover. Once again, a mix of carbs, proteins, fruits or vegetables and healthy fats will get you ready for the next day. Did I mention hydrating throughout the day?

Avoid Common Injuries

Knee injuries are by far the most common in skiing, accounting for 30-40 percent of all ski injuries due to the speed, impact and changing of direction of the sport. Depending on the type of crash, any part of the body is vulnerable to injuries, including the shoulder, head, hand and wrist.

January is National Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month. Safety in the snow is important for people of all ages. TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury and can result from head and neck injuries that occur with activities in the snow like skiing. Preventive measures, such as researching and wearing good gear, and using caution, can help you enjoy the winter season while staying safe.

Concussions are also common, but the number of head injuries is decreasing due to better protective headgear offered and skiers are getting smarter about safety and skiing limits. The best way to avoid injuries is staying within your skill level with regards to terrain and skiing difficulty. Warming up by stretching and going through a couple slow ski runs can help get your body for a more intense workout. If you feel any discomfort, dizziness or sickness from skiing, please seek medical attention immediately.

A Passion for Family and Sports Medicine

Dr. Arnold is a Family Medicine and Sports Medicine physician at The Polyclinic. Dr. Arnold is available to see new patients at Northgate Plaza. Call 206-525-5777.