Are you thinking of going skiing or snowboarding but worried about getting hurt? Well in this guide I will outline my ultimate safety tips, that if followed should help ensure you have an incredible experience and no mishaps.
Most of these safety tips are based on my own experience as a snowboarder for over 10 years, but in my most recent trip to Gastein I got a few tips from a ski and snowboard instructor called Hannes. These are noted as applicable.
Pre-ski safety tips
Wear/purchase adequate clothing (storm/windproof etc) – On some of my trips I have been on the mountains with the worst possible weather, with snow, rain, ice, and in temperatures lower than -20. If I didn’t have a good windproof jacket and bottoms I would have been in trouble. Ski clothing is expensive but for good reason, they should keep you warm and safe. This is recommended by Hannes (mentioned at the start) and he says it’s even more important for children to be wrapped up warm.
Make sure you have a phone or radio – It goes without saying but always make sure you have a phone or radio to hand (with full batteries) so that if you need to make an emergency call, you can.
Safety equipment – Whether a beginner on the slopes or advanced, safety equipment is always a good idea. Head down to the bottom of this page to find information about some of the safety equipment you should consider.
Emergency numbers – Make sure you make a note of the emergency numbers. There may be a special number for mountain rescue at ski resorts. The resort’s website should have information on this or ask in your hotel.
Wear suncream – Snow can be extremely reflective of the sun, and this can cause sunburn. To avoid this, always make sure you have good suncream on your face and especially your nose before heading out. Tip recommended by Hannes (see start).
Get adequate insurance – Having an accident on a ski slope can be very expensive. So ensure you get adequate insurance, that is insurance that covers you for winter sports. Most policies don’t have this by default and you have to tick a box in the application process. The majority of people don’t have an accident, but it’s always best to be prepared. Also, note some insurance policies don’t provide off-piste insurance, so if you need this check the fine print and look around if necessary.
Warm-up – Pulling a muscle on the middle of a slope is horrible, as you will have to slowly and painfully make your way down to the bottom, or to the closest lift down. By warming up (stretches etc), for at least for 10 minutes for beginners, and at least 5 minutes for experienced riders, you should have less chance of pulling muscles. Warm-up tip recommended by Hannes.
Tips for while on the slopes
Have lessons if you’re a beginner – Especially if you are a beginner you should definitely have lessons. Until you get in skis or on a snowboard you won’t realise just how slippery the snow is. Having lessons will help you learn some techniques and how to stop safely. Having Lessons is recommended by Hannes (see start).
Know your limits – First things first, don’t try and tackle runs that are beyond your skill level, it’s not worth it and you may fall, hurt yourself and lose confidence. At ski resorts they have different levels for run difficulty, these are often green/blue for beginners, red for intermediate and black for advanced/expert. Work your way up as your skill improves, and before you know it you’ll be able to tackle the most challenging runs. This is also recommended by Hannes (see start).
Take breaks – Skiing and snowboarding all day can be exhausting, and if you don’t take breaks, then at the end you may feel completely shattered. Having 30 minutes to an hour halfway through your day is a great way to recuperate your energy. Taking breaks is recommended by Hannes (see start).
Don’t push yourself – When you start feeling tired, it can often be tempting to push yourself and keep going, “oh only a few more runs”, but trust me if you feel tired it’s worth calling it a day and heading back to your hotel. Based on my own experience where I have pushed myself, that is when I often fall. Stopping before you get too tired is another tip recommended by Hannes (see start).
Head warnings (avalanches and runs) – Most resorts will provide avalanches warnings and will block off runs that may be dangerous. So if you see signs warning you not to go on a run, or that there may be an avalanche risk, then listen to it.
Be careful in bad visibility for changes in the snow – It can happen at any resort, the weather is overcast and you can’t see bumps and the slope properly. This means that as you go down the slope you may suddenly have bumps or sudden declines. These can catch you off guard and make you lose balance. Often in these conditions just take your time and go a lot slower.
Stop at the side – When you need to stop, try and stop at the edge of the slope, not in the middle. This should mean you are out of the way of incoming skiers and snowboarders and less likely to have a collision.
Ice – Ice is the worst, you can be going comfortably down a slope and come across the ice, then just completely lose an edge and then slide for ages. During hot days or later in the day is the most likely time for ice, where the sun has been blaring down on the slopes all day. As you ski or snowboard keep an eye out of this. Hannes recommends you have your edges serviced to ensure a better grip on ice (see start).
Go with someone – Especially if you are new or not very confident, try and make sure you have a ski buddy with you. That way you can look out for each other and also give each other tips if you are struggling with technique.
Ski schools and children – When you spot children and ski schools make sure you slow down and give them plenty of space. Imagine how guilty you’d feel if you landed on a kid?
Point – When you are drifting across the piste, and it’s likely you could be getting in other peoples way, point the direction you are going, this helps anyone behind you know what you’re doing.
Keep an eye out for who’s around you – Generally, you should always keep an eye on who’s in front of you and plan your route so that you don’t crash into anyone. If you are drifting a lot across the piste you should also be aware of who’s behind you. For example, keep an eye out for the sound of the skis and snowboards on the snow (it’s quite loud).
When wearing headphones – When using headphones you will block out sound around you, although this may put you in the moment, it could also make you more distracted, ie like when you drive.
Don’t race on crowded slopes – If you want to test your speed, or have a race with someone, then obviously don’t do this in crowded areas. Your best bet is to find some empty slopes and away from children, ski schools and beginners.
Safety equipment may seem expensive, but trust me it’s definitely worth it. You will have a smaller chance of injury and will also feel a lot safer and more confident. With each suggestion below you’ll find links to examples of the equipment you could purchase via Amazon. These are affiliate links and I appreciate it if you purchase via those links. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, this helps me run the website and provide you with information.
Wear a Helmet – Especially if you are doing jumps you should be wearing a helmet. A good benefit of helmets are that they are generally windproof, so will keep your head extra warm in bad conditions. Example product: Smith Optics Holt Adult Ski Snowmobile Helmet
Consider wrist guards – Since my first snowboarding trip I have always worn wrist guards. And I’m glad I did, as a fellow snowboarder who choose not to wear them had a fall and broke one of her wrists. This happened within the first few days and meant she couldn’t snowboard for the rest of the holiday.
There are options to get standalone guards which go under your gloves, or gloves that have built-in guards. The guards do restrict your movement a bit but for good reason. Example product: Dakine Wrist Guard
Consider impact shorts – As a new snowboarder you will be falling on your bum a lot, which trust me hurts like hell after a while. For that reason, I really recommend getting some impact shorts. Another good reason to get these is that when sitting down it keeps your bum off the snow so you don’t get as cold. Example product: Dainese Evo Action Short
Consider knee pads – I’ve never worn knee pads, although during my first few trips of snowboarding I did land on my knees a lot, which really hurt. For that reason I would recommend getting some, especially if you have dodgy knees. Example product: Protective Knee Pads
Get good goggles – Why do you need good goggles? Well they won’t steam up, will be filtered against UV rays and prevent glare, and will also allow you to see the shape of the slopes more easily. This will make your experience a lot better. Example product: Oakley Snow Goggle with Persimmon Lens
Purchase good waterproof gloves – I have snowboarded before with gloves made of wool, which have then gone on to then get covered in snow and also wet. This resulted in my hands getting really cold. What I now do is have some inner gloves followed by high-quality outer gloves such as mittens. This has worked very well for me. It’s also a good idea to have a spare pair of gloves in your bag in the event that you drop one. Burton Gore-Tex Gloves
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