Safety Tips: Snowboarding
Like surfing down a frozen white wave, snowboarding is a great way for kids to have fun and get exercise during those cold winter months. It's relatively easy to learn, and it can take them to some of the most spectacular places on Earth.
But snowboarding can also present some very real dangers, from frostbite and sunburn to blown knees and head injuries. Have your kids follow these safety tips to learn how to stay safe on the slopes.
Why Snowboarding Safety Is Important
Snowboarding involves moving at very high speeds down steep hills past other skiers and boarders, as well as natural and man-made obstacles. Falls, some of the spectacular variety, are going to happen, regardless of how good a boarder your child may be, and collisions are relatively common. Also, since snowboarding 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 and snowboarder 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 [and snowboarding], 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 snowboarding.
Before your kids venture out to the slopes, it's very important for them to have the right gear and know how to use it. In addition to a snowboard and boots, they will also need warm clothing, protective eyewear and helmets intended specifically for snowboarding or skiing.
Here's a list of what kids should bring each time they head up the mountain:
- Snowboard — In general, an all-mountain snowboard is the best bet for beginners, rather than a specialty board, which is harder to turn and balance on. Also, the longer a board is, the more difficult it will be to control. Choose a board that is the right length for your child's size and snowboarding ability.
- Boots — As the connecting point to the snowboard, boots are a vital piece of equipment. Make sure to get your kids real snowboard boots (not moonboots or hiking boots) that fit correctly to keep their feet comfortable and warm. For most beginner snowboarders, soft snowboard boots are easier to control than hard boots. Make sure kids keep their boots laced up tight to give their feet and ankles the support they need.
- Bindings — Most snowboard bindings are of the strap-on variety, which are compatible with the greatest number of boots. Kids should always keep their straps securely fastened to give them the most control over their snowboards. Some bindings, though, are step-in types. Make sure to get the right bindings for your kids' boots, and have a trained professional at a snowboard shop adjust the angle of the bindings to put their feet in the right positions.
- 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 boarding. Get them a helmet that fits properly, and make sure they know to keep the chin strap fastened to keep it securely in place. Also, make sure to get a real snowboard helmet (not a football or bike helmet) that allows space for their 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 they 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 — Many snowboard gloves include pockets for hand warmers to keep fingers nice and toasty. 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.
- Wrist guards — When kids first learn how to snowboard, they'll spend a lot of time falling forward and breaking their falls with their hands. This can lead to broken wrists and forearms, which are very common snowboarding injuries. Be sure your kids wear rigid wrist guards designed for snowboarding or in-line skating to protect themselves when they fall.
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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