The top 5 things you shouldn’t do in your ski boots.

AO_skiboot5. Walk any further than necessary. For a lot of reasons, but if nothing else to keep your footing and protect your whole body. Everyone has seen Dumb and Dumber. No one wants to live it. At most resorts, a hike from the parking lot is inevitable, but walking long distances in your boots before and after hitting the slopes is hard on your feet and ankles, not to mention the rest of your body. Ski boots force us into an unnatural walking position that can strain knees, hips, and backs too. So plan ahead. You’re already shelling out serious cash for a lift ticket, spend an extra few bucks for a locker and stash a pair of street shoes or boots at the base of the lifts. You’ll be glad you did at the end of the day.

4. Drive. You might think “who does this?” But it actually does happen. You may be eager for first tracks, but skip the boots until you are out of the car and at the lifts (see #5). Not only do ski boots make for very dangerous driving, you should save your feet for the full day on the slopes.

3. Ski outside your ability. There is no shortage of examples here. Whether it’s an overzealous beginners or a little one-upmanship among friends, skiing above your skill level often leads to poor form. Skiers tend to lean back instead of forward, forcing their toes into the front of their boots and putting extra pressure on ankles. And, skiing outside your comfort zone can hurt far more than your feet or your ego. It’s downright dangerous and can even be deadly.

2. Après Ski Twister. Ok so most people don’t imbibe enough après ski to think Twister in boots is a good idea, but a surprising number of people do hit happy hour in their boots and then keep them on way too long. After skiing all day, your feet are tired and typically even a bit swollen. Give them some much-needed circulation and air with that handy pair of street shoes you put in a slope side locker (everything goes back to #5, doesn’t it?).

1. Tolerate pain. This is easily the most common and most avoidable thing people do in their ski boots. If your boots hurt, you can do something about it! Ignoring the pain can even lead to serious or chronic injuries. Everyone’s foot is different, so forget what you’ve heard about the best brand or the characteristics of a “Salomon” (or Nordica or Atomic…) Foot.” Find a good boot fitter that takes into account the measurements of your whole foot, and get your boots properly sized. Many people wear boots that are too short or the wrong width or volume. Some people benefit from a custom insole or orthotic, so explore that option if you’ve exhausted your options in a standard boot. The right fit REALLY matters –  don’t tolerate pain anymore!

Colorado’s ski resorts are really starting to ramp up, as resorts are opening more of their terrain every day. Make the most of your skiing and that valuable season pass by keeping boot problems in check this year.

Being Prepared For Change

Even if you didn’t change jobs or health care insurers since last year, you should be prepared for changes in your healthcare plan now that it’s 2014. Are you ready? Keep these three tips in mind to minimize unpleasant surprises the next time you go to the doctor:
1.    Expect to get “carded”: Many plans reissue insurance cards annually for each covered member and you should definitely have a new card if you changed plans or have insurance for the first time. Make sure you bring your (or your family member’s) new card to your appointment! Your provider will want a copy as proof of insurance, and not having it could delay processing of your claim.
2.    Brush up on your (insurance) vocabulary: Become familiar with key definitions that impact your plan. Phrases like “co-insurance” “amount disallowed” “ancillary fees, products or services” and “EOB” are commonly used throughout the industry. The Department of Labor has one of many resources you can use to familiarize yourself with key terms.
3.    Know before you go. This is the single most important thing you can do. Is your provider in-network? (Networks change – especially this year, so double check.) Do you know your deductible? Will you owe co-insurance or a co-pay at the time of service? Do you need to set up an account to access HSA funds? Do you need a primary care referral before seeing a specialist? Refer to your coverage details or contact your provider BEFORE you schedule an appointment so you are prepared for any up front costs.
Don’t let the changing health insurance landscape catch you by surprise. A little research before an appointment can save a lot of headaches later.