Safety Tips: Skiing
Flying effortlessly down a snow-covered slope, feeling the wind in your face and soaking up the beautiful mountain scenery — there's a lot to love about skiing. It's a sport that kids can learn at a young age and continue doing for the rest of their lives, and it can take them to some of the most spectacular places on Earth.
But skiing can also present some very real dangers, from frostbite and sunburn to blown knees and head injuries. Make sure your kids follow these safety tips to learn how to stay safe on the slopes.
Why Skiing Safety Is Important
Skiing involves moving at very high speeds down steep hills past other skiers and natural and man-made obstacles. Falls, some of the spectacular variety, are going to happen, regardless of how good a skier someone may be, and collisions are relatively common. Also, since skiing takes place at high altitudes in the winter, the weather can range from sunny and bright to bitterly cold, with conditions changing rapidly from one slope to the next and from one hour to the next.
The skier safety code, which is printed on virtually every lift ticket and posted in numerous places around every ski area, lists some of the "inherent dangers and risks of skiing, including: changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities." That's a pretty fair assessment of some of the dangers kids will encounter while skiing.
Before kids venture out to the slopes, it's essential for them to have the right gear and know how to use it. In addition to skis, boots, and poles, they will also need warm clothing, protective eyewear and helmets intended specifically for skiing or snowboarding.
Here's a list of what kids should bring each time they head up the mountain:
- Skis — As a general rule, the larger a ski is, the faster it goes and the harder it is to control. Be sure to buy or rent skis that are appropriate for your child's skiing ability, and have them fitted and tuned by a trained professional at a ski shop.
- Bindings — These should also only be adjusted by a trained professional at a ski shop. It's very important for bindings to be able to release in the event of a fall to prevent leg injuries, but bindings that release too easily can cause falls of their own.
- Boots — As the connecting point to the skis, boots are a vital piece of equipment. Make sure to get kids boots that fit correctly to keep their feet comfortable and warm, and to provide the best control over their skis. Boots should always be buckled up snugly to give feet and ankles the support they need.
- Poles — These should always be the right length and have looped straps that go around the wrists. To check if poles are the right length, turn one upside down and have your child hold it by the tip, with a hand resting on the basket. The child's elbow should be at a right angle with the handle of the pole touching the ground.
- Helmet — As is the case with many sports, a helmet is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to preventing life-threatening injuries. Kids should wear one any time they go skiing. Get them a helmet that fits properly, and make sure they keep the chin strap fastened to keep it securely in place. Also, make sure to get your child a real ski helmet (not a football or bike helmet) that allows space for goggles and ventilation on warm days.
- Goggles and sunglasses — The sun's rays are considerably stronger at high altitudes than they are at sea level, and when they bounce off the gleaming white snow, they can be a serious threat to the eyes. Sunglasses are the best way to protect eyes from the sun's rays, but kids should also always bring a pair of goggles that are the right size in case it gets cold or begins to snow. Goggles are also better at protecting eyes from tree branches and other hazards.
- Gloves or mittens — Ski gloves should allow kids' fingers to move freely to grip their poles, but the gloves' most important job is to keep fingers warm. With that in mind, many gloves include pockets for hand warmers. If you're still worried about your child's hands getting cold, however, it's a good idea to get mittens, which are generally warmer than gloves.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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