How to Stay Safe on the Slopes!

NH Recreation Articles: Skiing Safety


How to Stay Safe on the Slopes

Here's what you need to know!

Now that snow has returned to the region below the north country many folks will again get the 'slope bug' and head north. There are spectacular views to be enjoyed and the thrill of skiing and other activities await - but everything on slippery surfaces comes with a certain level of risk. When packing gear you should also be prepared for emergencies. You find more challenging weather than anticipated, or end up lost or otherwise off the trail,. The following tips can help you remain safe whenever you are on the slopes and possibly far away from help.

As You Are Making Plans

Consider your physical condition. Has it been a few yearsSki safer by paying attention to these few lines. or a few pounds since you've skied? Have your skis tuned at the mountain's ski shop. Have you gained significant weight, developed a medical issues or celebrated a 'milestone' birthday? Seek a medical opinion about skiing fitness.

Prepare yourself ahead of time by using an elliptical trainer to prevent muscle strain.

Make sure you know the proper falling techniques. Yes, there are right ways and wrong ways to fall. Knowing the difference might spare you a lifelong injury or handicap.

Consider taking skiing lessons. Better preparation, better techniques, and better judgment will not only increase safety, but also your enjoyment of the mountain.

At The Mountain

Be conservative. Don't ski trails above your ability unless other skiers are nearby. Don't overdo your fun. Fatigue and overconfidence often precede slope accidents.

Bring fluids and snacks, especially if you're heading to a remote area. Drink frequently. Recent research suggests that even non acute dehydration reduces mental efficiency as much as 30%. Why play chicken with trees and slopes at 30 MPH with diminished capacity?

Ski with a friend. Wherever possible ski with a friend, and stay together.

Wear layers of clothing that wick moisture away from your body, keep you warm and allow for easy movement. Skiing alternates intense activity (flying down the slopes) with exposed inactivity (waiting for the lift and the long ride up). Temperatures can vary as much as 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 ft of elevation. Wear layers!

Let someone know your destination and when you expect to leave the slopes. Text them to confirm departure. Being lost, a sprain or broken arm can quickly precipitate or evolve into life threatening hypothermia.

Always wear a helmet and consider wrist and/or elbow guards.

Avoid Common Skiing Injuries

Altitude sickness
Trying a 'big' mountain? The higher the altitude, the greater the risk of altitude sickness. Symptoms can include fatigue, decreased appetite, shortness of breath with minimal exertion, muscle aches, nausea, headaches, and impaired judgment and are often more acute the 2nd day. Tobacco and alcohol use can intensify symptoms. Thankfully most cases are mild and spontaneously resolve as your body acclimates to the new altitude (over 3-4 days). Extra rest is helpful, but avoid daytime naps which slow your respiration. Be especially alert when traveling to higher peaks than you normally ski.

If your fingers become numb or if there is a burning sensation in the fingers and/or toes, you might be suffering from frostbite. If there is no discoloration, gently re-warm affected areas, If the burning sensation persists, call it a day. If there if discoloration, painful or persistent burning or other symptoms, call your doctor. Never rub the affected area, and especially do not treat any pain from cold injuries with snow or ice packs. Adults may take ibuprofen for mild pain. If blisters develop, see a doctor.

If you remain in the cold for prolonged period, it can cause a dramatic drop in your body temperature. Damp clothes exacerbate the effects of cold and can sometimes push normal chills to hypothermia.

Remove wet gear, especially when it's your innermost layer of clothing. Warm up thoroughly before again venturing outside. Check children often for the effects of cold and take appropriate action.

While counterintuitive, skiing can easily lead to sunburns. Thinner air at the summit means greater exposure to ultraviolet light and that's compounded by the light reflected by the snow. Always apply SPF 15 or higher protection on your face and lips and protect your eyes with sunglasses or goggles.

Important: The information provided is not meant to be medical or safety advice. Please consult a medical or skiing professional prior to engaging in any discussed activity.

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