While the chill of winter can often be enough to cause many people to shutter themselves indoors for months on end, winter sports lovers often find themselves counting down the days until the first snowfall of the year. With the thrill and adrenaline rush of skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, however, comes a real danger that resulted in 246,000 people being treated at hospitals, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms for injuries in 2015. Winter sports can be enjoyed safely, but only with the right amount of preparation before hitting the slopes.
Here’s a checklist to help you stay safe and have fun this winter, no matter what your favorite outdoor activity happens to be.
▢ Dress Appropriately
One of the easiest ways to ruin a day of skiing or snowboarding is to wear the wrong clothing. Regardless of how cold it is outside, your body will start sweating once you get moving, and any materials that don’t properly wick moisture will result in you feeling cold, wet and uncomfortable. It’s an annoyance to say the least, but wearing the wrong clothing can even lead to hypothermia under extreme circumstances. Stick to moisture-wicking thermal underwear (never cotton), an insulating layer and water/windproof outer layers to stay comfortable without being too warm.
▢ Take a Lesson
If it’s your first time hitting the slopes, you owe it to yourself and your own safety to take a lesson before heading out on your own. Why? It’s essential to have an understanding of basic techniques (such as how to fall properly) and safety precautions, as going in unprepared can spell disaster not just for yourself, but for your neighbors on the hill. The more educated you are about slope safety, the less likely it is that someone will end up getting hurt.
▢ Use Proper Gear
Even the best skiers and snowboarders are at risk of hurting themselves if they don’t have the right gear on their side. Boots, goggles, helmets and other equipment can be expensive, but heading out in the wrong or damaged gear is a surefire way to get hurt. Be sure to upgrade any equipment that has passed its prime—old skiing and snowboarding equipment is fine so long as it has been maintained properly and is outfitted with modern safety features.
▢ Watch for Frostbite
No one ever goes out expecting to get frostbite, but it helps to know what to look for symptom-wise, as it can occur without warning. If while outside in the cold for a prolonged period of time you experience pain, burning, tingling, numbness or paleness of skin (particularly in the extremities), stop what you’re doing and seek medical attention immediately. Though “frostnip”—the first stage of frostbite—can be mitigated if caught on time, advanced frostbite can lead to joints or muscles that may no longer work.
▢ Bring a Buddy
There’s no better way to stay safe and have a great time when enjoying winter sports than to bring a buddy along. The “buddy system” can help to prevent against people getting lost in the cold, as well as ensure someone is around in case an injury of some sort occurs. Be sure that everyone in your party has a mobile phone on their person in case of emergency, and document where you’ll be heading for the day before setting off.
Don’t compromise your safety this winter. Follow the checklist outlined above, and—most importantly—have fun!