Winter sports are great fun and relatively safe, with less injuries being caused each year than more ordinary sports such as tennis or running. As long as you’re sensible, you shouldn’t find yourself at risk of an accident or injury.
However, every year hundreds of people who participate in winter sports such as skiing, skating or snowboarding find themselves in hospital with injuries. Some are minor and some are serious and require urgent medical attention leading to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even repatriation, so travel insurance is a must.
Below are some tips we’ve gathered to help you stay safe whether you’re on, or off-piste.
#1: Make sure you take out the right winter sports travel insurance.
- Check the policy suits you and your needs before you invest.
- Keep your travel insurance medical emergency helpline number and policy number to hand at all times.
#2: Make sure either your equipment, or the gear you hire – is in good condition
- For skiing, make sure the skis are the right length for you.
- For snowboarding, make sure your boots are comfortable and fit snugly.
- Make sure the bindings are fitted correctly.
- If you’re ice skating, make sure your blades are sharp.
- Don’t borrow skiing equipment – it should fit your height, weight and skill level.
#3: Wear protective headgear
- Make wearing protective headgear or a helmet mandatory amongst your travelling group, especially if they include kids.
#4: Prepare for the cold climate with layered clothes underneath waterproof and windproof jackets, trousers or similar.
- Make sure you keep as warm as you can, even if it means adding extra layers.
- Add a hat, gloves and scarf – although they’re small they can make a huge difference.
#5: Don’t just assume that you can pick up the sport having never tried it before.
- Have lessons if you’ve never done it before and if you haven’t been on the piste for a while, a few lessons will refresh your memory and polish up your skills.
#6: Wear goggles or polarised sunglasses
- Because the sun is at such a low point, you can often find yourself unable to see which can be dangerous.
- If you wear prescription glasses, wear goggles that fit comfortably over them. Alternatively, consider prescription goggles – pricey but they’re worth it.
#7: Take regular breaks
- When you’re having so much fun, it can be easy to forget to eat or re-hydrate. Take regular snack breaks to stop wearing yourself out.
- Make sure you reapply sunscreen to any exposed skin on your breaks and remember that the higher you are, the more potent the UV rays from the sun.
#8: Ski/board with a friend
- Keeping an eye out for each other on the slopes can prove to be safer than skiing or boarding alone. If you disappear or fall, they’ll be first to your aid and can call for help.
- Going down those slopes at such a pace can be similar to driving – the better your observation, the safer you’ll be.
#9: Know your limits
- Keep to your skill level on the runs. Green is beginner, blue is intermediate, red is intermediate/advanced and black is advanced.
- NEVER go off-piste unless you’re advised or authorised to do so by the resort themselves and even then, go with a guide who knows the mountain. Make sure you obey all warning signs, especially during avalanche season.
#10: Carry important documentation and a fully-charged mobile phone with you
- Including your travel insurance emergency medical helpline number, your policy number and the number of any friends or family in the resort with you so you can call for help if you need it.
#11: Don’t drink and ski or board
- A glass of wine or beer with a meal is fine, but excess alcohol will slow your reaction time and drastically affect your observation and balance.
#12: Obey the International Ski Federation Rules:
The following is a summary of the ISF rules, which are now held to be binding in law:
- RESPECT – Do not endanger others.
- CONTROL – Adapt the manner and speed of your skiing to your and to the general conditions on the mountain/ ability
- ROUTE – The skier/snowboarder in front has priority – leave enough space.
- OVERTAKING – Leave plenty of space when overtaking a slower skier/snowboarder.
- STARTING OUT – Always look in every direction before starting.
- STOPPING – Stop only at the edge of the piste or where you can be seen easily.
- CLIMBING – Always keep to the side of the piste.
- SIGNS – Obey all signs and markings – they are provided for your safety.
- ASSISTANCE – In case of accidents, provide help or alert the rescue services.
- IDENTIFICATION – All those involved in an accident, including witnesses, should exchange names and addresses.