5 Tips to Keep Safe on the Slopes

Whether you’re new to skiing or a seasoned expert, it pays to be safety-conscious – after all, skiing is an extreme sport and mishaps can happen. Below are 5 tips to help ensure that your ski holiday is exactly what it should be: nothing but ripping good fun.

Image courtesy of Makoto Nakashima on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

Familiarise yourself (and your kids) with the resort map

Many of us, at some point, will get at least a bit lost on a mountain, but this tip is particularly important for children. This writer keenly recalls being abandoned by impatient friends at age 12 on his first day in Whistler Blackcomb with no map and no knowledge of how to get home (it’s a big resort to say the least). In short, to avoid unnecessary anxiety, always pack a map and get to know the mountain, and make sure any kids in your group do the same. While you’re at it, chuck in some water, sunscreen and a mobile phone.

Wear proper safety gear

The fact is, we all take falls, whether it’s small tumbles in our formative years or respectable stacks after making overly ambitious air off a kicker. If you’ve ever fallen onto your hands without wrist guards, you’ll know how much that sucks – you’re lucky to get off with just a sprain – and helmets are, for want of a better phrase, a complete no brainer: they prevent devastating injuries all the time. When you pick up a new helmet, make sure it fits properly, and if you do have a collision on the slopes be sure to inspect your helmet for damage – a busted helmet is no good to you. Other great pieces of protective kit include knee pads and ski goggles.       

Respect the rules of the mountain

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has 10 fundamental rules for ensuring your safety and the wellbeing of those around you – following the code will also keep you on people’s good side. The rules include, control your speed to suit your ability, always give priority to skiers and snowboarders in front of you, leave room when overtaking, respect all signs and markings on the mountain and, if an accident occurs, help however you can and alert the ski patrol. You can find the full list here – it’s a must read.

Know the conditions

When the snow is fresh and well-groomed, you’ll find it much easier to cruise safely at higher speeds and make precise turns. When the terrain gets a bit rough around the edges, you’re more liable to catch an edge and do a few involuntary cartwheels. When skiing across hard-packed snow, be aware of the greater risk of injury should you fall, and if you head off piste in search of powder, search online for avalanche warnings in your area. There are some great smartphone apps out there that put the latest weather and snow conditions in your pocket – check them out here.

Be prepared for off-piste

For the more advanced skier, off-piste offers less crowds, unique tracks and beautiful scenery. However, the reward of fresh powder pockets and thrilling runs between trees does carry some risk, and your best defence is to plan ahead. There’s a whole raft of extra safety equipment you should consider, including a shovel and a transceiver, and hiring a professional guide is a fantastic way to stay safe and get the most out of a mountain. You should also let others know where you are going and when you expect to return. Click here for more off-piste tips and equipment.

The truth is, when it comes to mountain safety, there’s more than just five tips to ensure that your holiday goes off without a hitch. Luckily, our ski experts have prepared a free online guide that looks at all aspects of safety on the slopes, including on-piste, off-piste and non-skiing activities. Read more here

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