20 March 2019
There can be few sensations as thrilling as whizzing down a snow-covered mountain. But, as with any adventure sport, there’s an element of risk in skiing or snowboarding. Fortunately, if you follow these six simple tips, you’ll have an excellent chance of staying safe and smiling on the slopes on your next ski or snowboard holiday.
1. Dress correctly
It’s pretty obvious, that, where there’s snow, it’s going to be cold. The combination of freezing temperatures and intense physical activity makes proper layering critical to your comfort and safety on the slopes. Moisture management is the key: you want to get sweat out and keep snow out.
Start with a moisture-wicking layer like the K-Way Thermalator Elite Long Sleeve Vest next to your skin. Over that, wear a warm insulating fleece or down jacket. Your outer layer should be a water-resistant, breathable shell that will keep moisture out while still releasing it from the first two layers. You can combine your insulating and shell layers by wearing a 3-in-1 ski jacket, like the K-Way Romulus 3-in-1 Ski Jacket.
Above all, don’t wear cotton (that goes double for socks). When cotton gets wet, it stays wet, dramatically increasing your chances of hypothermia. Good gloves, proper ski socks, and a hat that covers your ears are also essential. Lastly, remember that the sun’s rays are amplified by reflective snow, so wear wrap-around sunglasses or a UV protective ski mask, and apply a high factor sunblock to any exposed skin.
2. Get your gear right
Skiers and snowboarders can reach speeds over 40km/h, and an icy piste can be as hard as a tarred road. Make sure your ski or snowboard equipment fits you properly and suits your skill level. Most leg and knee injuries on the slopes are due to incorrectly adjusted bindings. Bindings need to be specifically adjusted to your ability, age, height and weight, so be sure you give accurate information to the person setting them up. You should also consider wearing a helmet, as a significant proportion of accidents involve head injuries.
3. Know your limits
The main cause of accidents on the slopes is people losing control, so be honest with yourself about your abilities. Avoid going faster than you can handle and always make sure you can stop. If you’ve never skied or snowboarded before, or if it’s been a while since you last did, sign up for lessons with a trained instructor.
Trying to go down a route that’s too difficult is no fun and is the fastest way to get hurt. All resorts have difficulty ratings to help you decide whether a run is suited to your skill level. (Different countries may use different ratings systems, so familiarise yourself with these beforehand.) If you're a beginner, stick to beginner slopes until you feel comfortable enough to move on to something steeper.
4. Obey the rules
In the same way that there are rules all road users must obey, there’s a set of skiing and snowboarding rules that are legally binding around the world. The most important rule is that people in front of you or downhill from you have right of way. Before you start skiing, or when you merge with another trail, look uphill to make sure no one’s coming.
If you’re overtaking someone, give them plenty of room. Don’t stop in the middle of a narrow trail or anywhere you can't be seen from above. Obey any signs on the slopes, and never go past a boundary or into a closed area. If you see an accident, you must stop to assist and get help. And, obviously, never ski away from an accident you may have caused. (You can read the full set of rules of conduct for winter sports here.)
5. Look out for hazards
Danger on the slopes comes in many and varied forms. Aside from human hazards such as unaware or out of control skiers and snowboarders, these include weather conditions, snow conditions, avalanches, rocks, trees, and stumps. Unless you’re a very experienced skier, avoid ice – and especially avoid turning on ice. If you do end up on an icy piste, try skiing closer to the edge where snow scraped from the middle will have piled up. Also look out for deep, loose snow, which can cause a bad fall. This is often found around the base of trees, so stay clear of them. If the weather changes, or if visibility becomes poor, get off the slopes until conditions improve.
6. Don’t go it alone
Even if you’re a good skier, you can still have a bad accident and be unable to get to safety by yourself. Whenever possible, ski with a friend and stick close together. If you don’t have someone to ski with, make sure someone always knows exactly where you are. Take your phone with you and program the number for the ski patrol into it. Keep it somewhere easily accessible, but safe from damage in the event of a fall. You should also carry identification and your travel insurance card with you at all times.