Whether you are a seasoned skier or an absolute beginner, getting out on the white stuff can be exhilarating and fun for all the family. Being fully prepared and familiarising yourself with the correct kit before you hit the slopes can make the difference between memories of a happy holiday on the slopes and one you’d rather forget.
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The scenery may be beautiful in the mountains but the climate is cold. Make sure you are suitably dressed.
Your aim is to stay warm. Layers are always best and the general advice is to choose all synthetic or all natural. Ideally do not mix layers of wool with layers of synthetic fabrics as they work in different ways to keep you warm.
Ideally, don’t wear a cotton base layer or you’ll get cold. Instead have a thermal layer next to your skin.
Make sure you have lots of pocket space so that you can remove layers when you get hot and carry spares in case the temperature drops suddenly.
Good gloves are essential.
Sunglasses and goggles
Do wear sunglasses for the sun and goggles for the shade or cloud.
Most ski goggles are to be worn over the helmet.
Ski goggles with a snap-back strap can be worn under the helmet.
Wear a helmet to protect your head, as you and others will be going at speed. It can also protect you from ski poles, skis and banging your head at the lifts. Do be sure to adjust you chin strap so it is neither too tight or slips about.
Ensure you give accurate information on your age, ability, height and weight, as these are critical to calculate the right settings for the bindings of your skis.
Incorrectly adjusted ski bindings account for most leg and knee injuries. If your bindings are too tight and you fall, your skis will not detach and this can result in very serious injuries. Conversely if your bindings are too loose your skis may fall off, which can also cause injury.
Ensure your boots are comfortable and fit well. Don’t do them up too tightly. If you find that your feet get very cold or lose sensation, this could be the cause, try loosening them slightly and see if things improve.
Your heel should not come up in the boots once they are secured, although you should be able to move your toes. Nor should your foot should slip from side to side in the boot. Ask the hire shop to check – they usually won’t mind, even if they are not boots hired through them.
Have the boots as tight as comfortable around your calf muscles, but never tight across the top of your feet which could restrict the blood flow to your toes and result in you getting cold feet.
Getting to and from the slopes often easier if you undo you boots slightly. However do remember to make sure they are firmly done up when you ski.
Make sure your outside layer is waterproof, in particular your bottom half.
Don’t tuck salopettes into your boots, but pull them over the outside to keep the snow from getting in.
If you wear more than one pair of socks, your feet can overheat and sweat which can lead to blisters. Additionally, once the sweat freezes, your feet can actually get colder. So invest in a pair of ski socks and just stick to wearing one pair.
Most ski poles come with a handle strap. Holding the handle properly can avoid mishaps. It can also help prevent you losing the pole if you fall. Make sure you grip the pole correctly, by bringing your hand through the strap from underneath and lower your hands to grip the handle. Skiers thumb is a common injury caused when the pole gets pulled from your grip and your thumb is wrenched backwards, sometimes dislocating too.
On the slopes
Ski to your level of competence – do not be tempted to go at a faster pace than you are comfortable with and moderate your speed according to visibility and the quality of the snow. Always ski at a pace when you are in control. Be aware of your surroundings. People go very fast and although you may be in control, others may not.
Learning how to stop safely should be your first priority.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) has developed ‘Rules of Conduct’ that apply to all who use the pistes, regardless of what equipment they’re using. This ‘highway code’ for the snow helps everyone stay safe on the slopes, and should be followed at all times. These Rules are posted outside ski schools, by ski lifts and often printed on the back of piste maps. These should be read by everyone before venturing onto the slopes.
Colour coding runs
All pistes are colour coded according to their difficulty. Green slopes are the easiest, then blue, red and black being the most difficult. Don’t start with the most difficult either first thing in the morning or late afternoon. Ski with care and always look uphill before setting off.
Ice is slippery and trying to turn on black ice is frightening and can lead to accidents. Avoid turning on ice when possible, often there is powdered snow beyond it, which is much easier to navigate.
Poor quality snow can increase the risk of injury. Hard-packed or icy snow can result in worse injuries on impact. The rule of thumb is when it is icy, drop down a piste level and reduce your speed until conditions improve.
The weather at altitude can change incredibly fast. Check the weather forecast every morning before you get dressed to make sure you are prepared. Don’t dress for the weather you wake up to. Do dress for all eventualities. If the cloud comes down and the wind picks up conditions can change dramatically.
Weather warnings are often posted at ski lifts.
Common first aid can be needed for –
Dehydration and Exhaustion
Skiing is a strenuous activity and it is vital that you keep yourself hydrated and do not overdo it. Get fit before you go, otherwise 6 hours of strong exertion will take its toll. The final hour on the pistes is also dubbed ‘insurance hour.’
Take regular breaks and sips of water whenever you can. Take easy-to-eat snacks to munch on the lifts to keep your energy levels up. If you are skiing to another resort, ensure that you have planned the route sufficiently and allowed enough time to get back before the lifts close.
Skiing is a vigorous activity so warming up can help prevent injuries and warming down can help prevent sore muscles that could interfere with your skiing ability and enjoyment the following day. Do some safe stretches after you finish skiing.
Watch out for unnaturally white patches of skin on the faces of your companions or on your hands, as these can be the early signs of frostbite.
Take regular breaks and thaw frozen flesh with body heat and massage. Never put frostbitten hands or feet in hot water or on radiators.
- Ice and snow add considerably to the power of the sun and it is possible to burn quickly even on a cloudy day.
- Ensure you have good quality sunglasses or goggles.
- Cover all exposed areas with a high factor sun cream and choose one that protects from wind and cold burn too.
- Ensure you apply regular lip balm that contains sun protection.
- If someone gets sunburnt, get back to base run the area under tepid water and apply neat Aloe Vera.
Make sure your insurance covers winter sports so if you do have an accident you are covered. Being air lifted is a costly business.
It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Visit www.firstaidforlife.org.uk or email email@example.com or tel: 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.