A healthy powdering of snow from storms Christmas week has turned Utah into a winter playland; from tubing to fishing, there is plenty of fun to be had on the ice and in the snow.
Winter sports can be a source of fun - or of pain and injury. Using common sense and taking adequate precautions can help prevent accidents."Tubing is the highest-risk winter sport," said Dr. Michael Callahan, an orthopedic specialist at American Fork Hospital. "There is absolutely no control - you are at the mercy of the mountain and the terrain."
Callahan said tubing and tobogganing cause more deaths than any other winter sport. Tubes and toboggans are impossible to steer and difficult to stop and can travel at great speeds.
"If you are going tubing, find an area where you come off the hill on a long, flat area," Callahan said. "If there are trees, rocks, a river or a drop, there is danger. Bodies can be smashed when traveling at tubing speeds."
Wayne Watson, director of the emergency center at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (UVRMC), said tubing is especially dangerous if people hook their arms and legs together to form chains.
"If there is an accident, people tend to hold tighter and there is a higher possibility of fractures and back injuries," Watson said. "Moms and dads often hold their kids on their laps, and if they are thrown, they often land on their kids."
Watson said most of the tubing injuries brought into UVRMC's emergency center are fairly minor, mostly bumps and bruises. During the past several years, however, American Fork Hospital has treated two victims who suffered broken necks while tubing.
Skiing is another winter sport that can be potentially dangerous. The bulk of injuries are torn ligaments, strains, sprains or breaks, although head injuries are not uncommon.
Tuning up your "shock absorbers" along with your equipment can help prevent injuries.
"The lower limbs act as shock absorbers," Callahan said. "Stretching and strengthening the legs gets the muscles - the shock absorbers - in peak condition."
Watson and Callahan said skiers should inspect their equipment each year to make sure it is working properly.
Registered nurse Lisa Carlson, pediatric clinical specialist at UVRMC, spends her weekends as a member of the ski patrol at Solitude Ski Resort.
"The biggest injuries occur when people are tired, later in the day," Carlson said.
Carlson said jumping is one of the most unsafe things a skier can do.
"There are so many variables," Carlson said. "There is no precise landing area, and (the jumper) has no control and can land in any formation.
"Skiers need to have respect for the area they are skiing in. People should enjoy themselves, but remember to ski in control, in marked areas and to watch out for other skiers. That would solve a good portion of the (injury) problems."
Another winter activity, "bizzing," in which a rider holds on to a rope or the bumper of a car and gets a ride down a street, may seem like fun, but it is illegal.
Provo Police Capt. Jerry Markling said there is a law that says the only place a passenger can be on a car or truck is a place meant for a passenger - they can't ride, sit or stand anywhere else on or in a vehicle.