How to Stay Safe On The Slopes

Safe Skiing

Before you hit the slopes and go charging off to the Alps or North America on a powder trip, take a few moments to consider your safety.

  • Do

    1. WEAR A HELMET. People buy protective cases for their laptops and mobile phones, so why shouldn't you protect the most important computer of all - your brain?

      Most reputable resorts have strict rules about children and employees wearing helmets on the slopes. Snow, trees and other people are all just as hard as concrete when you collide at speeds of 20 and 30 (sometimes more) miles per hour. Collisions can be extremely nasty and are sometimes unavoidable - no matter how good a skier you are.

      You will be able to rent a helmet at the sports desk of most resorts, but its always good to check first. If you can't rent one, buying a decent helmet is a great investment that will pay for itself in peace of mind.

    2. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. If this is only your first (or even second) ski holiday, you don't need to do the most dangerous slope this time around. Take time to enjoy the learning process and wait until you are feeling confident before trying The Devil's Wind Pipe (or whatever the scary hill for experts is called). Challenging yourself to go faster and charge bigger hills is a great way to improve your skills. But there is no need to put yourself (and others) in harms way for the sake of bragging rites or peer pressure. If you are not ready to ski down a scary slope, rather stay off it.

    3. PRACTICE CORRECT SLOPE ETIQUETTE. Follow the rules of the road when skiing. This is for the benefit of everyone using the slopes. One of the main rules to follow involve right of way. Remember: the skier in front of you has right of way. If you are crossing a path, turning or stopping, it is your responsibility to move. Click here for a simple lesson in ski etiquette.

    4. WEAR LAYERS. Regulate your body's temperature by wearing layers that you can take off and put back on. Your body's temperature will go up when you are skiing down hill and exerting plenty of energy. Then it will drop when you are riding the gondola back to the top of the hill. Then it will go back up again. And so on and so forth. To avoid catching a cold or flu during all these temperature changes, you need to be prepared. By layering up, you can shed and add garments as needed.

    5. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF YOU BANG YOUR HEAD. If you bump your head, get off the slopes and have it checked out - even if it's only a small bang, get it checked out! A minor bang can have a major impact. Many serious head injuries have delayed effects, so it is very important that you play it safe.

  • Don't

    1. TRY JUMPS AND TRICKS WITHOUT PRECAUTIONS. If you do feel like its time to spice up your run, don't go headlong into ramps without:

      1. Speaking to an instructor to get expert advice about how to move your body, where to hit a ramp and at what speed. Professional instructors are on call at all major resorts to offer assistance and advice. Most guides are only too happy to help with something as exciting as trying new moves.

      2. Wearing a helmet. This is so important we had to mention it twice.

    2. MESS AROUND ON THE SLOPES. Playing the fool or trying to put your friends off while they are skiing is not a clever idea so save the horse play for the club house. A great holiday on the slopes can rapidly go downhill if you don't respect the elements and take your safety seriously.

    3. DON'T SKI WHEN TIRED, HUNGOVER or worse - DRUNK! If you are feeling sluggish after a big night on the town, rather sleep it off before hitting the slopes. You need your wits about you when skiing or snowboarding, so it's important to make sure you are on top form.

      Stay away from the slopes if you've had a tipple or two. Not only are you a danger to yourself, you're also a danger to others. Getting injured whilst under the influence of alcohol, is not only extremely dangerous due to the altitude, but you also won't be covered by your insurance.

      A holiday at a ski resort will be full of fun and laughs. If you are serious about making your trip all about skiing, you might need to forgo the nightlife in favor of early mornings, but this will be more than worth it when you have the slopes to yourself.

    4. SKI ALONE. Never head out onto the slopes alone - this especially applies to more experienced and advanced skiers, who are prone to taking bigger risks. It's always best to ski with a friend who can look out for you in case something goes wrong - this is just good common safety practice. Most of the time it is also nice to have a friend see you do something cool on the slopes.

    5. STRUGGLE WHEN YOU FALL. There will always be wipe outs when skiing and snowboarding. Its as much a part of the fun as it is part of learning. When you fall (and you will!) don't fight it. Struggling against the speed and trying to stop yourself from sliding will only increase the chances of injury - mostly to your knees, arms and shoulders. Just go with the forward motion, laugh at yourself and enjoy the ride!

Last Updated: November 2010