It’s widely known that winter sports can come with a high risk of injury. If you’re heading to the mountains for some late-season skiing or snowboarding, here are our top tips for staying safe on the snow.
Make Sure You’re Adequately Insured
If you’re going on a snow sports holiday then it’s essential to get adequate travel insurance. Many basic travel insurance policies won’t include winter sports as standard. If you have a travel insurance policy either as an employment benefit or as a perk of a bank account, for example, then you must check whether this will cover you for skiing or snowboarding. You may find that you need to pay an additional premium to add winter sports cover to your policy.
If the policy does include winter sports cover, it’s also a good idea to check exactly what this covers. If you’re going to be spending some of your time in the snow park, make sure that you’ll be covered for this. If you’re likely to be venturing off-piste, check that this will be included.
Also, in addition to cover for medical treatment, check that your policy will cover you if you need to be rescued from the mountain. A trip down the mountain on a stretcher can be pricey but if you need to be helicoptered off then the costs can spiral out of control.
Co-op Insurance offers a range of travel insurance policies to suit the needs of skiers and snowboarders.
Tune and Service Your Equipment
It’s important that your equipment is serviced and set up properly.
If you’re on skis, make sure that your bindings are adjusted correctly. If they are not, then you risk them either popping off of their own accord while you’re skiing, or failing to come off when you have an accident. Both of these occurrences can result in serious knee and leg injuries.
Skis and snowboards both perform far better if they have been properly looked after. Tuned edges will give you much better grip in icy conditions and a waxed base will keep you moving on shallower gradients.
Be Aware of Who’s Around You
It’s not uncommon for skiers and snowboarders to reach speeds of more than 30mph, so it’s essential that everyone is aware of their surroundings. Be aware of hazards or obstacles and be aware of who’s around you.
The International Ski Federation has set out rules which skiers and snowboarders must adhere to. These state that the skier or snowboarder in front always has priority.
Know Where You’re Going
It’s a good idea to keep a piste map on you and take note of lift closing times, giving yourself plenty of time to make your way back at the end of the day. If you find yourself rushing to catch the last lift you could end up having an accident.
Never blindly follow other people’s tracks off-piste – you don’t know if that person knew where they were going or what level they ski at. Worst case scenario could see you blindly following tracks off a cliff or into a crevasse. Alternatively, you could find that you end up having to hike out of a dip or attempt to navigate terrain that’s beyond your level of ability, or you might simply find yourself at the door of their chalet!
If you want to venture off-piste but you’re not familiar with the area, the best option is to hire a guide.
Venturing into Avalanche Risk Areas? Be Equipped
Off-piste skiing and snowboarding can also pose a significant avalanche risk, which is another reason why it’s absolutely essential that you do not venture into the unknown without a guide. Even with a guide, the risk of being caught in an avalanche remains significant.
It’s essential that everyone in the group is equipped with avalanche safety gear and that everyone knows how to use it. Transceivers are devices worn strapped to the body, which send or receive a signal to aid the search of someone buried in an avalanche. Transceivers, probes and shovels are available to buy or rent in most resorts. However, time is of the essence if someone gets caught in an avalanche, and none of this equipment will help unless the whole group has been properly trained in how to use it.
It’s not a good idea to head out on the slopes alone. Always keep tabs on one another and stop at regular intervals to check that no one is missing. Make sure that you have ways of contacting each other if you need to.
Wear Protective Clothing
Don’t be fooled into thinking that snow is soft. Crashing on an icy piste can be just as dangerous as crashing on concrete, and off-piste there’s the added risk of hidden rocks lurking under the surface. Wearing a good quality, well-fitted helmet is absolutely essential for this reason.
Other items of clothing that could help to reduce the risk of injury include back protectors, knee pads and elbow pads. Some snowboarders might also opt for the added comfort of padded shorts.
What to Do if You Have an Accident
If possible, move out of the path of oncoming skiers. If you are unable to get yourself off the mountain then phone for help as soon as possible. Most piste maps and lift passes will have emergency contact details printed on them. Keep yourself as warm as you can while you wait. It’s a good idea to have details of your insurance policy with you and a phone number for your insurance provider. In some resorts the rescue teams will want to know how the costs are going to be recovered before they take you down the mountain!
If you’re able to, note down the contact details of anyone who witnessed the accident, as eye witness accounts could prove to be valuable if you want to make a claim. Our Personal Injury Solicitors can provide you with free legal advice, discuss your circumstances and advise you on the best course of action to take.