Staying Safe on the Slopes: Essential Safety Advice for Skiers

Learning to ski is very rewarding, but becoming comfortable on skis takes dedication and time.  Preparing for your first, or the next, skiing trip is a key element in getting the most out of the sport whilst remaining in one piece. Staying safe and avoiding common hazards is the most important aspect of learning the sport and is something both beginners and more experienced skiers must always remember.

Safety Tips for Beginners

Every novice skier eats snow at least a few times during their first few attempts at the slopes, but you can improve your chances of success by following these tips:

  • Be realistic about your skills and choose a resort with gentle, wide slopes that are ideal for beginners. As you learn, you can progress to slightly harder and longer slopes, but focus on building your confidence on the bunny hills first. It can be a real temptation, as a novice, to go zooming downwards with no knowledge of how to stop or slow yourself down.  A good analogy for this is “writing a cheque your ass can’t cash”.
  • Choose lifts that have detachable chairs or gondolas while you are still gaining your ski legs. These lifts are great for novices because they nearly completely stop at the top, allowing you to dismount safely.
  • Skiing is a skill best learned from professional instructors. Learn the ropes from a pro who has experience teaching novices.
  • Use shorter skis that are easier to control. They require less strength to handle and will get you moving at a more controllable speed.
  • Practice your skills on soft snow. Packed, icy, hard snow is tough to handle and makes falls much more dangerous and painful.
  • Gear up properly before you hit the slopes. Waterproof gloves and clothing are a necessity. You can get away with second-hand or borrowed ski-wear, but don’t take any shortcuts when acquiring (whether buying or hiring) the hardware.

Safety Tips for All Skiers

  • Harmful ultraviolet rays are stronger at high altitudes, so wearing sun protection is a must. Wear sunscreen and good eye protection to stay safe.
  • Know what to do in the event of an avalanche. Try to escape the deluge of snow and ice or stabilize yourself by grabbing a tree or rock. Ditch your equipment if necessary and try to stay above the surface of the avalanche. If you are trapped in snow, make an air pocket and breathe through your nose. Always heed daily avalanche ratings.
  • Know the signs of altitude sickness, including headache, shortness of breath, nausea and fatigue. To avoid the condition, pace yourself when reaching higher altitudes, drink plenty of water, avoid salt and alcohol and eat plenty of carbs.
  • In the event of an accident, keep calm and assess the situation. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. If the injury is too serious to make it down the mountain you must place markers to alert other skiers of the accident and direct them away from the scene to prevent further accidents. Release the bindings of the injured person’s boots and keep him or her as warm as possible. Perform basic first aid while waiting for help to arrive.

This blog post was written by Laura Kay who blogs for the indoor skiing and snowboarding venue, Chill Factore.

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