Staying in safe whilst out and about in Niseko
Recently I have been treating a number of injuries that occurred not on ski slopes but either on the way to ski slopes or more likely from the way home from the bar !
This brings us to an important and overlooked topic.
How to walk safely on ice and snow.
Ice falls in Niseko can be nasty.
It’s very easy to fracture a wrist or collarbone as you instinctively brace yourself from going over. Ice is an incredibly hard and unforgiving substance and with temperatures often sitting well below zero here in Niseko for most of the winter you are going to see a lot of it. Lower Hirafu can be particularly treacherous.
Sure you think you can walk. You probably a great walker and been doing it without thinking since you were a baby. But millions of years of evolution has led to humans having a truly remarkable gait that is not well suited to snow and ice.
What do I mean by this ?
Walking is essentially falling forward and catching yourself each time. To do this safely we rely on the friction generated from the back foot to drive all the the front foot to launch forward and catch us before we fall flat on our face. This gait is very efficient and one of the reasons it allowed our ancestors to move and spread to all continents of the globe using far less energy than our four legged friends.
When we are dealing with the ice and snow the rules should change.
Now our knees should be slightly bent, our arms can be extended from our body to help us balance and we try to keep our weight over the ground foot as it moves forward as we shuffle forward with smaller more balanced steps.
If you are not sure what I mean by this be sure to check out the masters of ice walking on 2 legs. Our penguin friends. They take small steps forward and keep the weight well over the front foot.
Pengiuns keep their hands out of the jackets their phone in their pockets and their arms slightly outstretched to be able to assist with balance. If you don’t know any penguins to ask to be sure to also watch the elderly folk getting around Kutchan who have also become masters at the Niseko shuffle.
Niseko Chiropractic’s top ice walking tips
- Where the right shoes. Get proper snow and ice soles on your going out shoes or if you just here for a short stay consider those strap on ice spikes. About 1,000 Yen from Homak and they work brilliantly although remember to take them off when you get inside or the restaurant will not be too happy with you.
- Keep your hands free from items and slightly outstretched
- Take small shuffling steps with your weight well over the front foot and keep your feet underneath your centre mass.
- Bend your knees slightly and should you feel your balance go drop your weight evening onto both legs
- If you do fall. Do not put out your arm ! It is very likely to fracture on ice. Simply tuck your head forward, round your shoulders and try to fall on your side as you breath out forcefully. It may sound strange but it’s actually really worth practising how to fall safely on soft snow so if you do go down on ice you already have the right muscle memory.