SKI SEASON is on us once again, and for you novices out there, we have invited -- if not invented -- the Sven of the Slopes, Dr. Ski, to answer a few of your questions.

Q.Dr. Ski, is there any chance I could get injured skiing?

A. None at all. {He's lying.}

Q. Come on! What can I do to help prevent injuries?

A.The best thing you can do if you are a novice is to take lessons. If you know how to ski, get your equipment checked over at a ski shop before you hit the slopes. The good news, fearful one, is that ski equipment is light years away from the gear that led to many injuries a generation ago. Quick-release bindings are standard now. Also popular are bindings with toe releases, to free you in a backward fall or slide.

Gaining wider acceptance are the new poles with partially-enclosed handles so you can let go of them during a fall. Other new poles have grips that completely enclose the hand to protect the thumb and fingers. If you are worried about hand injuries, you can buy gloves with metal inserts to protect your thumb from a break or bad sprain, the most common skiing injury. "Safety is practically a non-issue," says Seth Masia, technical editor of Ski magazine. "Leg injuries have declined 75 percent over the last 12 to 15 years, largely a function of improved bindings. Upper body injuries are up, because people are skiing faster or hitting trees."

Q.How much is skiing going to cost?

A.For a weekend ski trip (figuring in equipment rental, skiing both days, meals, entertainment and a room), plan to spend about $200 per person. The tab would be lower if you bought a multi-day lift ticket and shared a room. First, start with the equipment. Don't buy it if you are a beginner. You may soon be a non-skier again. Rent it, preferably at your local ski shop. There you will be fitted for skis, boots and bindings. The price is cheaper (usually about $30 or so for a Friday pickup/Monday return) and the quality of equipment is better than at the ski resorts. Your lift tickets will run from $20 to $31 for a weekend day. You can save a few dollars by skiing weekdays or just for the day at such close-by slopes as Liberty, Roundtop and Massanutten. Some resorts offer weekend-long tickets and you can save a few dollars there. But add room, meals and lessons ($9 to $25 per hour) and you are talking about real money. It isn't cheap; fun, unfortunately, generally isn't.

Q.What's new in skis and gear?

A.Performance skis for women have changed. Skis for men and women have always had the same center of gravity. But this caused some minor handling problems because of the anatomical differences between men and women. Some new advanced performance skis for women move the center of gravity slightly forward. This gives an advanced skier more control. Blizzard, Dynastar and K-2 LTP make these new skis. Overall, "there are a lot of good skis on the market," says Masia. "Anything over $250 is skiable. There's still a lot of junk around selling for $100 to $150. They are not made too well."

Q.Dr. Ski, I am so out of it, fashionwise. Like, what should I wear to look, like, really in?

A.First, ski out West, far away from me. The European look -- broad shoulders, trim waist and trim bottoms -- is the style in ski clothing. As for colors, the really in colors in ski gear this year are Hot Pink and Teal Green and fluorescent pink, chartreuse and yellow. Ski clothing and boots have been colorized for quite awhile, but the tint-trend is now affecting the skis and bindings. You'll find skis, bindings, mittens, gloves, leggings and headgear in eye-numbing colors or decorated with cartoon characters. In short, the beachwear designers appear to have seized the ski clothes shops.

Q.Dr. Ski, I saw some guy skiing down the mountain on what looked like a single fat waterski? What's going on?

A.He was using a monoski, a wide single ski with side-by-side bindings that is the rage in Europe and is popular on some powder slopes in the States. The Ski Chalets in the area sell them, but you will not be able to use them on every slope. Check before you go. Another popular item is a snowboard, the slope equivalent of a skateboard. The user stands sideways on the 18-inch by 4-foot board and maneuvers it much like a regular skateboard. The snowboards can be used on very gentle slopes.

One final question, please.

Q.I am afraid of heights and fear that I might die of fright atop the mountain. What can I do?

A.Such fears are normal and can be easily conquered. What you must do is to relate skiing and the mountain to more familiar objects, thus changing the objects of fear into everyday sights. First, skiing is nothing more than a controlled fall, surely a familiar event. Second, the smallest slope in the area is around 500 feet high, about the height of the familiar Washington Monument. Instead of getting scared thinking about skiing down a 500-foot hill, just pretend you are making a controlled fall from the top of the Washington Monument.

You're probably feeling better already.