How Dangerous Is Wearing Headphones on the Slopes?

I like to listen to music when I'm out skiing or snowboarding. Does that put me at greater risk of injury?

Music on the slopes.     Photo: Pavel K/Shutterstock

“It’s kind of a fine line,” says Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), of wearing music while skiing. “If people want to go out by themselves and put on some classical music and ski in a winter wonderland, we want to give them that opportunity—within reason. We want to reinforce critical safety messages, but at the same time we don’t want to be a bunch of killjoys; there are plenty of people who probably can ski with music in a very controlled manner.”

Which is one reason ski areas don’t prohibit listening to music while out on the slopes. Another reason is that, thanks to helmets, hats, and high-collar jackets, nabbing earbud users is just too difficult to police. “It’s nearly impossible,” Byrd says. So instead, skiers are encouraged to follow the “responsibility code” and to have full and complete awareness of their surroundings at all times.

Listening to music increases the risk of skier-skier (or even worse, skier-snowmobile) collisions, because people don’t hear someone (or something) approaching from behind. “They may cut you off, they may ski too close and startle you, you may take an abrupt turn not realizing someone is behind you,” Byrd explains. “We want people to have their full wits about them when they’re skiing out on the mountain, we want them to avoid distraction. You have a responsibility to always stay in control; you must have the knowledge and ability to ride safely.”

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