If your winter travel plans include a visit to a ski or mountain destination, here are some tips to help avoid injury and ensure that you get the most out of your vacation. Winter sports can be fun, exhilarating, and great exercise, whether you’re skiing downhill or cross country, taking up snowboarding, or going snow shoeing. Along with the fun, though, come risks, including hypothermia and injury.
- Be sure your equipment fits properly. Ski safety begins with equipment that is right for you and for your ability. Boots, in general, should be snug and provide some ankle support. Beginning skiers should select shorter skis which are easier to maneuver. Also, bindings on skis need to be adjusted appropriately for your skiing level. To minimize risk of injury, for instance, a beginning skier will need a binding set so that skis release easier in case of a fall.
- Wear a helmet. According to the National Ski Areas Association, a helmet is designed to reduce head injuries and works best at speeds of up to 12 mph. Be sure your helmet fits properly and that it doesn’t restrict your vision or hearing.
How to Dress
- Use goggles or wraparound sun glasses to protect your eyes from flying snow or dirt and from the sun’s glare.
- Apply sunscreen before hitting the slopes to help protect your face from the sun’s rays. Snow reflects the sun, so it’s easy to burn in the winter, even on cloudy days.
- Dress appropriately to avoid hypothermia, and getting chilled or overheated. Layering is best, especially for aerobic activities, such as cross country skiing and snow shoeing. Don’t forget to wear gloves, and be sure to wear a headband or a hat. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 60% of heat loss is through the head.
- Always try to stay in control. For first-timers, especially, it’s best to take a lesson from a professional ski or snowboard instructor to learn the basics such as controlling speed, turning, and stopping.
- Know your responsibilities as a skier or boarder. Many ski areas post a Skiers’ Code of Conduct or Responsibility, with information such as who has the right of way on a slope.
- If you’re a beginner and don’t know how to get on or off a ski lift, or if you need help, ask the lift attendant before you attempt to load.
- Know your limits. Don’t attempt a Double Diamond run if you’re a beginner or novice.
- Conversely, if you’re a hot dog skier or boarder, heed signs in “Slow” areas and curb your speed.
- Recognize signs of fatigue and rest if you feel tired. According to the CDC, altitude can exhaust you quickly.
- Try to avoid skiing in adverse conditions like heavy snow storms, when visibility may be low.
- Stay on marked trails and don’t ski outside the ski area’s boundaries.
- Stretch your leg and hip muscles before and after skiing.
- Drink plenty of water, especially at higher elevations, to avoid dehydration.
Sources and more information:
US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.