Winter is well on it’s way, the snow is sticking, and people are heading to the slopes for winter sports and fun. If you’re a beginner or it’s your first time on a mountain, skiing and snowboarding can be intimidating. While both of these sports are tons of fun, they also require plenty of planning and knowledge if you want to stay safe and have a great time.
Injuries from skiing and snowboarding, as well as sledding, snowmobiling, and other winter sports, can vary greatly and can include very serious injuries. Injuries from such sports can occur externally or internally, on your body, face, or head, can effect your extremities or eyes, and can potentially lead to death. Now that’s no reason to be scared to try it, you just have to do your research and take the necessary precautions. Use the checklist below to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions as a beginner or, alternatively, not forgetting something as a practiced winter sport enthusiast.
⇒ Get Fitted for the Proper Gear:
One of the most important things you should do to prepare for your first trip to the slopes is go get fitted for your correct sizes at a local ski/snow shop. After your initial fitting, you should be sure to go back once a year to for fittings to be adjusted as necessary. Additionally, gloves with wrist support are a great idea for snowboarders since it’s instinct to catch ourselves when falling even though you will be instructed to fall differently. Lastly, you should always make sure your equipment and gear is in good condition, even if you buy it used or it becomes worn over time.
⇒ Invest in Layers of Clothing:
A major safety (and comfort) tip as a beginner is to invest in multiple layers of clothing you keep specifically for hitting the slopes. There are 3 main layer types that will help you avoid hyperthermia, frostbite, or simply being uncomfortably cold. The inner layer should include polypropylene underwear on top and bottom for wicking moisture, while the intermediate layers can consist of turtleneck sweats, and the outermost layer should always be water-proof material which will act as a shield. For the best protection, your clothing should be tight and closed off at the ankles and wrists with collars or accessories that completely cover the neck.
⇒ Buy and Wear a Snow Sport Helmet:
You should always invest in and wear a snow sport helmet – these will protect your head and will have the proper shape/design to accommodate snow goggles and eyewear. Most resorts require helmets but if the mountain resort you choose doesn’t require you to wear a helmet on the slopes, you should always wear one for extra protection. Don’t forget, you can get a concussion just from your head hitting snow, but you’ll also be riding down a mountain maneuvering around trees, people, and rocks. Even practiced skiers and snowboarders have accidents, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
⇒ Use Sunblock and Proper Eyewear/Sunwear:
Snow reflects up to 70-80% of UV rays, which is more than grass, asphalt, or water, so it’s important that you not only use sunblock but also use sunwear for eye protection. It’s recommended to bring both goggles and sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB protection. If your goggles fog up or you are between rides, you can switch to your sunglasses or winter sport fitover sunglasses to enjoy the view while keeping your eyes protected from harmful UV rays. If you wear glasses then carrying both goggles and sunglasses may seem like a drag, especially if you don’t want to spend the extra money on prescription glasses sunglasses – this is where fitovers sunglasses can be useful.
⇒ Warm Up and Stretch Beforehand:
Just like any other sport, snow sports require quite a bit of physical activity so you should aim to already be in good shape when heading out to slopes. Also, you should do a warm up and stretch before every day of riding – you don’t want to spend the next day(s) sitting out because you pulled a muscle on the first day of riding.
⇒ Get Lessons from a Certified Instructor:
The pros make skiing and snowboarding look like a piece of cake, but winter sports, especially on snow, require certified training and a good amount of knowledge. It’s a good idea to get lessons from a certified instructor before going on your first run and with every new trick you’re interested in mastering.
⇒ Never Ride Alone:
Children especially should never ride alone, however it is wisest to always have a partner with you on the slopes, no matter your skill level or confidence. It’s always more fun with a friend and you’ll have someone with you who can help you or go get you help if an accident occurs.
⇒ Stay Aware of Your Environment:
This is a very obvious safety precaution, but we think we should call out a couple of factors for you to remember when beginning snow sports, especially at resorts and centers with other people around. First, it’s always your responsibility to be aware of and avoid hitting people in front of you but you should also call out which side you’ll be passing someone. Secondly, if you find that you need to stop for any reason, you should try to make your way to the side of the run, out of other people’s way. This is when you need to take extra care to be aware of people who are coming down the mountain behind you. Be sure the path to your left or right is clear behind you so you don’t suddenly turn in front of someone and have a collision. In this case, try to look around yourself as much as possible if you’re on a snowboard, as you can sometimes end up with a blind-spot.
⇒ Stay Hydrated and Stop When You’re Tired:
One of the most important rules in any sport is to drink plenty of water and listen to your body. Always carry a water bottle in your pack in case you find you or your riding partner(s) get thirsty. Also, remember that while you’re having tons of fun, you’re also working your body out and if you become tired, it’s better to rest and take a break than sacrifice form or safety on the slopes.
⇒ Do Not Use Alcohol or Drugs:
Last but not least, snowboarding and skiing are not recreational sports that should include recreational drinking or drug use. Just like driving, you will be putting yourself and others around you in danger if you drink too much or use drugs of any kind before or during your rides. You must always stay alert, hydrated, and coordinated while on your board or skis.
You can also check out this sheet by Nationwide Children’s Hospital for more winter sport injury facts and safety tips. Did we miss something? Leave a comment below with some of the safety precautions you take or other winter sport tips you have for readers!