staying-safe-while-skiing-and-snowboarding

If you haven’t hit the slopes yet this season, there’s still time. Remember, however, that winter sports—with the crowds, the weather, and the literal slippery slopes—carry an inherent danger. For every 1,000 skiers and snowboarders, there is an average of three to four injuries, many of which happen to beginners, and many of which are head traumas. No matter your level of experience, here are some important tips to keep in mind as you’re prepping for a snowy adventure.

Before Hitting the Slopes

Dress appropriately.

The clothing you wear in the cold matters a lot, so layer up. Layers are convenient because they allow you to moderate your temperature by taking things off or putting them on, but, more importantly, layers are imperative to keeping freezing moisture off your skin.

The clothing you wear in the cold matters a lot, so layer up. Layers are convenient because they allow you to moderate your temperature by taking things off or putting them on, but, more importantly, layers are imperative to keeping freezing moisture off your skin.

Next to your skin should be a moisture-wicking layer. An insulating layer should follow, whether it’s fleece, down, or some other warm material. On the outside you should have a breathable shell, meaning something that generally keeps moisture out and releases it from your first two layers (armpit zippers are a great for this). Avoid wearing cotton because when it gets wet, it stays wet. If you are ever in a situation where you need to wait for help, cotton will considerably decrease the length of time you can wait without getting hypothermia.

Don’t underestimate the sun.

Even though the air is chilly, the sun’s UV rays still exist and are amplified on the reflective snow. Always wear long sleeves and pants, and cover your hands and ears. Be sure your ski mask is UV protected, and don’t forget to put sunblock on any skin that will be left exposed.

Wear a helmet.

About one in six skiing/snowboarding injuries are to the head, ranking winter sports on the higher end of dangerous sports due to head trauma. Don’t let your helmet give you a false sense of security, though. People with helmets still get hurt if they are not careful.

Take your phone.

Be sure you program in the number for the ski patrol. You’ll want to carry your phone so it is accessible if you’re in a situation where you can’t move a lot, but you don’t want it to be in a place where it’s likely to get crushed in a hard fall.

On the Slopes

Stay with a buddy.

Someone should always know right where you are. If you lose sight of your buddy, assume he or she is in danger and try to regain contact immediately.

Maintain control.

Skiing and snowboarding are thrilling, and it’s easy to get caught up in going fast. Just remember that you should avoid going faster than you can handle; be sure you can stop yourself and respond to any unforeseen factors when you need to.

Yield for others.

The people downhill from you have the right of way, and, if you’re merging, the people on the trail you’re merging with likewise have the right of way. Be courteous and make the sport an enjoyable experience for all.

Heed the signs.

Though that powder may be tempting, don’t go off the groomed slopes if you have not been trained for backcountry skiing. This includes, importantly, training to identify prime avalanche conditions.

Look out for deep snow.

Deep snow is mostly a problem in backcountry skiing, but it can also become an issue on groomed trails after a fresh snowfall. Deep snow is loose snow that occurs around the base of a tree, particularly an evergreen tree. An unsuspecting skier may suddenly find themselves sinking or flipping because of the loose snow and then fall in and get trapped, perhaps in a suffocating position. One of the easiest solutions is to stay away from the base of trees.

Following these simple procedures on your next downhill adventure will make the experience more enjoyable for you and the people around you. When you avoid injury, you give yourself more opportunities to safely enjoy the slopes over and over again.

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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