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Piste Safety

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.

Winter Travel Packing Tips

Clothing

  • Layer up: Bring plenty of layers to wear throughout the day to insulate and keep warm. Something like a vest top or t-shirt under a long sleeved t-shirt underneath a jumper or fleece (bear in mind wool tends to be bulky and therefore harder to pack), fitted under an insulated waterproof jacket. You can always add or remove layers of clothing as you go between in and outdoors.
  • Hat: You lose the majority of your body heat through your head, so covering it up can really help keep you warm. Make sure your hat covers your ears and is made of thin, modern materials which pack lightly, but also provide maximum warmth.
  • Gloves: You no longer have to pack the heaviest, woolliest gloves you can find in order to keep yourself warm. Modern insulating materials mean that you can pack light and still remain cosy. Waterproof ones are the best as they hold up in even the worst weather and the thin, tight material makes them easy to carry.
  • Shoes: Your shoes will be your heaviest item, unless you’re bringing your own equipment, but they’re really important as your feet are buried in the snow the majority of the time and so cope with the majority of the wet and the cold. Good, dark, weatherproof winter boots are ideal for the climate and should last you season after season.
  • Polarised sunglasses: The low winter sun can be really rough on your eyes, as it’s lower and closer to your point of vision and with the reflective snowy surroundings, being able to see can become a problem when out on the slopes or even just driving.
  • Swimwear: Some resorts may have pools, hot tubs or saunas to relax in after a long day on the slopes.
  • Sunscreen: Despite it not being warm, windburn or sunburn off the reflective snow and ice can damage your skin to the same extent laying out by the pool can.

Before You Go

  • Check the travel alerts from the FCDO of the country you intend on visiting. Follow @FCDOtravelGovUK on Twitter to get the latest travel updates and advice.
  • Find out where the nearest embassy will be.
  • Sort out travel insurance – insurancewith provide cover for customers with pre-existing medical conditions, allowing you to go on holiday without having to pay excessive premiums.
  • If you’re travelling within the European Economic Area, from 1st January 2021 rules around travel to Europe have changed, visit the Government website for up to date information on passports, EHIC, healthcare and more. We’ll update this page with more information as and when the Government release it.
  • Check with your doctor whether you’ll need any vaccinations before you travel.
  • Make sure you’ve got the correct visas for the country you intend to visit.
  • Most importantly, check your passport is valid at the time you intend to travel – it takes up to six weeks to apply for or renew a passport, so checking well in advance might save time later on.
  • Tell friends and family where you’re travelling to and leave them your contact details, travel insurance policy details and your itinerary as this will make it easy for them in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies.
  • If you intend on driving abroad, make sure your licence is current and valid. Make sure you’re aware of the driving laws in the country you intend on visiting.
  • Sort out your hand luggage.
  • Check with your airline for flight delays.
  • Keep all tickets, visas, foreign exchange and passports safely in a travel belt or bag and keep these with you at all times.
  • Check your house is safe before you leave – check all switches are off, water is turned off to prevent pipes from freezing and securely lock all windows and doors.

Winter Sports Equipment

Winter sports are some of the most adrenaline-inducing out there and there’s something for everyone. From snowboarding and skiing to ice-skating and snow-shoeing – you can even go down a mountain on a big inflatable ring- any sports enthusiast can get involved. When is there a better time to experience new things than on holiday?

To join in, you don’t even have to necessarily have to buy your own equipment, many resorts and centres can provide you with their own hired stuff – definitely cheaper than buying your own.

Don’t feel limited to one sport
Don’t feel like you can’t branch out and experience something different. If you buy gloves, goggles and a hat, you can pretty much try any sport you want to have a go at. However, for all high-adrenaline sports, it’s a good idea not to skimp on the equipment and the high quality stuff is likely to keep you safer.

Snowboarding
Snowboarding has become one of the most popular winter sports as it’s relatively easy to pick up for beginners. To cover the basic essentials you need for snowboarding, you’ll have to invest in a snowboard, snowboard boots, bindings, trousers, a jacket, goggles and other warm winter gear such as hats and gloves.

Skiing
One of the oldest winter sports, skiing is second in popularity to snowboarding and requires some level of experience before you head to the top to ski back down. When you go skiing, you’ll need a set of skis, ski boots and winter sports gear similar to the snowboarding attire – a warm, waterproof jacket and pair of trousers, goggles, a hat and some gloves.

Snowshoeing
If you just want to get out and explore the snowy terrain. Snow shoes allow you to walk across feet-deep snow without sinking. If you’re just going on a holiday in snowy climate, these are ideal to take in order to explore and enjoy the outdoors further than you could without them. For snowshoeing, you just need some snowshoes, bindings and your warm, waterproof winter jacket, trousers, hat and gloves as mentioned above. If you want a sporty slant on snowshoeing, opt for some running snowshoes or backcountry snowshoes for a more adrenaline-pumping experience in the wintery climate.

Ice skating
Ice skating is the winter sport which everyone participates in at one point or another. Moving across the ice at a fast but graceful pace becomes really enjoyable after you’ve let go of the side of the rink…or someone’s arm. Make sure when you buy ice skates, that you’ve bought the right type as they vary. Figure skates are designed for manoeuvrability, speed skates are built for exactly that and ice hockey skates have a small pick in their tip to allow players to make quick stops or changes in direction. Make sure your ice skates have been sharpened. A sharp ice skate blade grips the ice better than a dull one. Ideally, you should sharpen your blades when they begin to slip when you land. You could measure the number of hours it takes for your blades to become dull and then you’ll have an idea of how long you can skate for without any surprises.

Sledding
Sledding is great winter fun for the whole family and there are a whole different number of sled types to choose from. A straight shot down the snowy hill requires a toboggan, but if you want a quick, wild and bouncy ride, you’ll have to opt for the plastic sled. Some resorts have special sled sections and some sledding hills have tugging lifts so you don’t even have to get up, but you can also sled almost anywhere there is a slope. Make sure you pick out a sled or a snow tube (a large inflatable ring) with enough seats for your number of riders and start sledding.

Safety Tips for Travelling

Staying safe on holiday is just as important as staying safe whilst at home, and following these tips can help you have the experience of a lifetime but without any unexpected dramas.

Have a health check-up

  • Before you leave, make sure you’re as healthy as you can be so you can have peace of mind that you’re at your best and won’t experience any previously unknown medical issues whilst you’re away.
  • Check whether you need any vaccinations before you travel.
  • Be realistic in where you travel – being older doesn’t mean you’re limited in what you do, but make sure your destination is suitable for you and your needs.

Plan ahead

  • Planning ahead can save time and unnecessary stress, especially during the busy holiday seasons. Leave enough time for any traffic jams you may encounter on the way to the airport/port, toilet stops and any parking issues. Make sure you make it to the departure point with enough time to spare, running around and panicking just ensures your holiday will be off to a flustered start and could lead to an accident.
  • If you need to arrange transport to or from the airport/port, make sure this is sorted well before you fly/sail.
  • Understand local laws, cultures and etiquettes before you travel, as some cultures are offended by things we would consider normal everyday behaviours.

Accident prevention

  • Accidents can have lasting effects, especially for the more senior traveller.
  • Make sure you’re careful around walkways, promenades, railings, steps or any situation where there’s a chance of uncertain footing in case you fall.
  • Don’t rush for any reason, and if you’re uncertain about getting from one point to another, ask for help.
  • Make sure your travel insurance has adequate emergency medical expenses cover to pay for any medical attention you may need whilst abroad.

Crime

  • Do your homework before you leave and find out whether crime is common in the area you’re travelling to. Senior tourists and travellers are vulnerable targets for thieves and muggers, especially in big touristy cities.
  • Make sure you don’t carry large sums of cash on you, and if you have to, divide it between you and another person, or keep it in more than one place on your being. Don’t advertise any jewellery, electronic equipment or cash, as this makes you an easy target for thieves, and try and keep everything in a bag that has a lock or zip close, and strapped across your chest.
  • Never venture down streets alone, especially if they’re small, empty or it’s at night.

Pregnancy Travel Advice

Holidaying whilst pregnant is a great idea, especially if this is your first child. As a growing trend among expectant mums, ‘baby-mooning’ is hugely popular so we’ve written a few tips to help you enjoy your holiday to the full.

Stress
No one wants stress whilst they’re on holiday, least of all expectant mums! Try and plan ahead as much as possible, making it much less likely for something unexpected to stress you out.
Allow plenty of time for travel, and even the small things like toilet stops and traffic jams, giving you plenty of time to reach the airport or your destination without worrying about making it.

If you find it hard to concentrate on planning everything, start by writing lists of different things you need to pack or organise instead of one big one – clothes, snacks, electronic equipment, things to keep you entertained (ipods, tablets, books, magazines etc.), health and beauty items, directions, itineraries, travel documents and that sort of thing.

Expect to be held up or delayed. If you bring a pair of headphones or a magazine to flick through, you’ll be more relaxed and the queues and impatient tutting of fellow travellers won’t bother you.

Take it easy
Whilst being pregnant doesn’t mean you are limited in what you can do, if you are thinking about adventure hiking, going on lengthy sightseeing expeditions, non-stop shopping or similar things, it’s a good idea for you to take it easy.

Avoid activities that might put you at risk of falling, or are pressurised, such as scuba-diving. Activities with sudden acceleration or forceful landings, like rollercoaster rides and theme parks should be avoided, as well as staying away from the hot tub and the sauna, as overheating isn’t good for your baby.

There’s plenty you can do whilst pregnant. Yoga classes, painting, swimming and brisk walking is all safe to do when you’re expecting, or why not see the sights of your holiday destination? Cultural trips to the museum or art gallery can be ideal, so long as you take regular breaks.

Avoid dehydration and keep taking regular sips from a water bottle to keep you from feeling sick or faint.

Give yourself several breaks a day to give your feet and body a rest, but as you’re on holiday, it gives you a chance to absorb the scenery and atmosphere around you. If you’re rested, you’ll enjoy the trip a lot more than if you were tired.

Travel vaccinations
To be on the safe side, it’s easier to stay away from countries where you need a certain vaccination. If you’re worried you’re going somewhere that does require a vaccination to cross their borders, consult your doctor, as they will know which vaccinations are required and what’s suitable for your pregnancy.

If you’re trying to get pregnant and plan on travelling abroad, it’s best to have the vaccinations four weeks before you conceive.

Make the most of being pregnant
Take loads of photos whilst you’re on holiday – it’ll be great to look back later on in life and remember the experiences you had whilst pregnant. Plus you’ll be able to show your child in the future how they came on holiday with you before they were even born!

Taking full advantage of people holding doors open for you, queue-jumping and being offered seats whilst on holiday as it can make travelling and sightseeing a lot easier. Enjoy being pregnant!

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