How To Fall On Skis & NOT Hurt Yourself

by Simon Naylor | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  How to Ski
For every new skier, falling on skis is an inevitable right of passage. While I can't guarantee that every fall is going to be painless, if you follow the techniques below, you're more likely to survive falls unscathed. The first rule for falling with skis is when possible: always try and land with your skis on the ground.  Chances are if you're a new skier and not jumping off objects then once you start to fall, you'll either land on your side, back or front. That's where these four failing techniques come into play, to teach you how to distribute your weight in a way that will cause the least damage.

4 Failing Techniques

These 4 techniques will show you the proper way to fall on your side, back and front (2 methods). Every fall is different and you won't have much control over your body, as well as having only a few short moments to react. However, making a conscious effort to distribute your weight and land as properly as you can, will save you from injury.
1. Landing on your side
Keep your arm straight and aim to hit the floor on your side with a straight arm rather than your hip or head. Martial arts use this technique to protect themselves during a fall and it's worth practicing this on soft snow or on a trampoline to get a hand of the technique. Land with the weight on:
  • ✅Straight arm by your side.
  • ✅Outstretched leg.
[caption id="attachment_1032" align="alignnone" width="437"]fall on side skis Images from Stomp It Tutorials Youtube Video[/caption] Don't try to catch your fall on the weight of your:
  • ❌Elbow.
  • ❌Wrist.
  • ❌Hand.
  • [caption id="attachment_1033" align="alignnone" width="437"]wrong way to fall on skis Images from Stomp It Tutorials Youtube Video[/caption]
2. Landing on your back
Landing on your back is not as rare on skis as it is with snowboarding, but it's a dangerous way to fall if you don't land correctly. If you're falling on your back, aim to roll and smash hard with your arms so that they take the brunt of the impact and protect your head. As you land, smash your arms straight down by your side.
  • ✅Straight arms by your side.
  • [caption id="attachment_1030" align="alignnone" width="437"]fall on back Images from Stomp It Tutorials Youtube Video[/caption]
Don't try to catch your fall on the weight of your:
  • ❌Elbow.
  • ❌Wrist.
  • ❌Hand.
  • [caption id="attachment_1031" align="alignnone" width="437"]no to fall back Images from Stomp It Tutorials Youtube Video[/caption]
3. Landing on your front
Try to land with your hands in front to protect your face. Aim to take the weight of your fall by your arms instead of your teeth, nose, and head. As you land:
  • ✅Straight arms by your side.
front fall skis Try not to fall on your:
  • ❌Face.
  • ❌Head.
  • ❌Neck.
4. Front rolling (powder)
The fourth technique is a front roll - which is handy for powder falls. Sometimes when you land after a drop or jump and your not able to ski out, you'll be ejected from your skis and over the front of them. Bringing in a martial art style forward roll will help distribute the force of the fall and protect you from injuring one part of your body. [caption id="attachment_1036" align="alignnone" width="444"]forward roll skis Gif from Stomp It Tutorials Youtube Video[/caption]

How to get up after a ski fall?

Now that you've learned how to crash, you still need to get back on your skis safely without hurting yourself. Getting up on skis can be a challenge and its best to go into knowing the proper techniques that will make getting up much easier. Below are snippets from my full guide: How To Get Up After a Ski Fall.

Getting up with skis still on

ski fall
  1. Take your pole straps off and untangle your skis.
  2. Keep your skis sideways to the hill with your legs beneath you.
  3. Being your skis together.
  4. Support yourself upright with your hands close to your body.
  5. Crouch over your skis with a forward bend and push off the ground with an outstretched hand.
More detailed walkthrough here

Using ski poles to get up More detailed walkthrough here

Getting up when your skis are off

If you fall and your skis fly off your boots (common at high speeds or awkward falls, skis are designed to come off with a certain amount of pressure.) use this technique to recover and get your skis back on.
  1. Put your skis flat sideways to the mountain.
  2. Stand below your skis.
  3. Put the downhill ski on first.
  4. Edge the ski
  5. Clip into the second ski.
More detailed walkthrough here

Worst Ski Crashes Ever

If you're feeling sorry for yourself over a sore bum, be thankful you're not one of these guys. Stay cautious and only tackle the ski trail color that suits your ability.

Most Common Ski Injuries

1. Backward twisting fall
The backward twist is very common and happens when the skis weight twists and turns and puts pressure on your knee. Focusing on proper ski form throughout the turn is a way to avoid this.
2. Forward twisting fall
In a forward twisting fall, the most common occurrence when your weight is too far forward in your ski as you make a turn. The forces of this fall can twist your leg and cause a sprain or tear.
3. Boot anterior draw
This type of crash is most common when you land too far back into your ski and excess pressure is placed on your calf. If you land in this position and hear a loud pop or snap, then stop and don't ski any further. You'll need to ski patrol to get you down to a medic right away. You can protect yourself from these injuries by always skiing with proper form and by building on your skills incrementally. Don't fly down a black run on your first week of skiing.

How to slow yourself while crashing near drops.

If you're on steep terrain or near dangerous drops, you'll want to slow your descent as fast as possible. Turn your body and dig your elbows or forearms into the snow to slow yourself. Do whatever you can to stop yourself from uncontrollably sliding towards a drop or tree well. If you're on a groomer or a shallow slope, then don't use your arms to slow yourself as this can result in torn ligaments or broken arms. Instead, try to relax your body and wait for the friction of your fall to bring you to a stop.
 Stiffening up will only make the impact worse. And don’t try to use your edges to slow you down, the sudden catch could torque your knee and cause an injury. Best Way to Fall When Skiing

How to Crash Less While Skiing

Learn the Fundamentals

Don't rush, build the fundamental skills of skiing.
  1. Stopping - read my free guide
  2. Controlling your speed - read my free guide
  3. Parallel skiing - read my free guide

    Know your colors

    Start on Green slopes while your learning to pizza or snowplough and make wedged turns.
Move to Blue slopes once you can safely stop and control your speed and you're working on your parallel turns. Move to Red slopes (or black diamond trails in the US & Canada) only after you can parallel ski and hockey stop. Don't ski Black or Double Black Diamond until you are a very good skier able to turn at speed on steep and narrow pistes and ski on all types of terrain. Europe Ski Piste Color Angles [caption id="attachment_979" align="alignnone" width="812"]Canada + USA Ski Trai Colors What Do Ski Slope Colors Mean? Trail Guide for Beginners[/caption]

Start slow

Until you can turn at speed, don't race to the end. Slowly build up speed and work on your turns in incremental amounts. Crashing at speed is dangerous and causes most ski fatalities.
Crucially it is not beginners who are most at risk, but above-average skiers moving at speed on the edges of blue & red runs.  Is skiing Dangerous?

Fall early

If you're a new skier and you're uncontrollably skiing forward and unable to make a turn. It's better to lean backward and fall on you're butt rather than gaining momentum and hitting someone or something head on. It's safer to make a purposeful controlled fall than to take an uncontrolled tumble.

How to ski safely

Follow these skiing tips on how to ski safely, reduces your falls and protect yourself when it does happen.
  1. Get fit. Exercise before your ski trip so you're in better fitness and can react better to falls.
  2. Wear fitted ski equipment. Always wear the correct size ski boot and skis to your body size.
  3. Get professional ski instruction or a friend. Lessons from ski instructor or friends are the way to go and it will save your time, money and crashes.
  4. Wear ski goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and objects during a fall.
  5. Take a break. I have a habit of pushing myself on the slopes and not wanting to rest. But be sure to not overextend yourself and risk injury. Many falls are caused by tired legs at the end of the ski day.
  6. Ski with a friend. If you can, always ski with a buddy, especially off-piste or backcountry. It's good to have someone to help you out when you need it.
  7. Avoid tree wells. If you're about to crash, do whatever you can to avoid hitting a tree or falling down a tree well.
  8. Be cautious on hard packed snow. Icy patches and hard snow are more difficult to ski on and don't cushion falls as much as groomed or powder banks. Ski cautiously and maintain a strong stable stance. Read: How to Ski Safely on Ice and Hard Packed Snow. 
Wear a helmet
Wearing a ski helmet is a smart move. Not only will it keep you warm, but it will also help protect your most important organ during ski crashes. If you need more convincing read this article I wrote the other day: 5 Essential Reasons to Wear a Ski Helmet & this if you want to know When To Replace Your Ski Helmet.

Final thoughts

Crashing is inevitable, but hurting yourself is not. Learn incrementally and distribute your weight as you fall. Don't succumb to peer pressure and only ski down slopes that you are comfortable with.