Published on March 12th, 2018 | by Guest Post
Post Office Travel Guest Blog: Best Ways to Stay Safe on the Slopes
Whether you’re a snowboarding pro or a snow-ploughing beginner, no one is completely free from risk on the slopes. If you’re taking to the piste this year, make sure you’re as safe as can be.
Every winter sports novice will know the discomfort of spending a lot of time on their behind. While the risk of injury decreases with experience, the seriousness of a potential injury goes up.
It’s no surprise that 36% of British skiers have hurt themselves while enjoying the slopes, with 19% sustaining serious injury like fractures and concussion*. Whether it’s a broken arm or minor cuts and bruises, any fall on the slopes can be alarming.
Of course, that’s no reason to stay at home. But if you’re going away, take some safety advice with you.
Preparation is Key
Try and get your mountain legs before you leave. As ski professional Dylan Burke of Ongosa says:
As with everything, preparation is key and that definitely applies to ski holidays. It is not just insurance that people fail to acknowledge properly either. The joy of skiing is you don’t need to be at peak fitness to enjoy it. However, just a few weeks of relevant exercise will massively increase your enjoyment on the slopes and reduce chance of injury.
It’s important to reassess your skill when you get back on the slopes. It might have been a year or more since your last trip, and your physical conditioning may have waned a bit. Give yourself a few good warm-up runs on an easy slope to acclimatise.
Make sure you carry a piste map with you and plan a route down the slopes that matches your ability. As you get more confident, you can judge whether you’re ready for bigger challenges, but day one is not the time to do that.
Wear the Most Appropriate Gear
Wear good-quality ski gear. Snow can burn on contact with naked skin and rocks can hide just under the surface of the snow. Make sure you’re covered even if the sun’s out.
A helmet is advisable. Your insurance might stipulate that you have to wear one for your policy to be valid, but even if it doesn’t, you don’t want to miss out on challenges because you don’t have the right safety gear. This is particularly important at snow parks, off-piste and on red and black runs. But it’s not just the risk you pose to yourself – other reckless skiers can cause you injury even when you’re playing it safe.
Goggles are better than sunglasses in the event of a white out. They’re less likely to steam up and more likely to stay on when jolted.
Especially towards the end of the season, skiers run the risk of sunburn if not properly protected. Sunlight reflects off white surfaces, meaning you’re getting the direct glare from the sun and its reflected glare from beneath. It’s very important to take good UV protection, especially for your lips where cold weather can create chapping.
Don’t Overdo it at the Bar
It’s not a good idea to drink during the day whilst skiing. The high altitude and physical exertion can make one beer feel like many more, and your co-ordination is guaranteed to suffer. Recently, Post Office demonstrated the risks of mixing alcohol with winter sports at an event in London.
Après-ski is an ever-popular event in ski towns, and sometimes the crisp air and adrenalin of an early ski can be the perfect way to blow last night’s cobwebs away. But that doesn’t mean it’s always safe. GP and TV personality Dr Hilary says:
The types of injuries we see are predominantly preventable through some simple preparation. Before hitting the slopes, skiers can wear appropriate clothing and should avoid skiing right after a tipple to help protect themselves and ensure they stay fighting fit for their whole break. Whilst we all want to make the most of our holidays, it is important that if skiers do find themselves injured for any reason, they do not delay seeking medical attention and risk making their injuries worse.
Have the Right Level of Cover
Nearly half of skiers go away without travel insurance*, risking a financially difficult situation should they suffer an injury. An EHIC card might offer some protection, but the level of this depends on the country and the nature of the medical care you might need. A rescue helicopter can cost £2500 while simple treatment at a walk-in clinic can cost between £500 and £1000.
Travel insurance is vital for all travel, but especially travel that involves risk of personal injury, and it’s important to match your policy to your plans. For instance, you will need to check whether you’re covered for going off-piste if you plan to do so, and whether or not you can leave the limits of the resort. You will also need to know the things that might invalidate your policy, such as not wearing a helmet.
Once you’ve taken all the right precautions, you can enjoy the slopes with peace of mind.
*Source: Survey of 4,544 GB adults was conducted by YouGov between the 16th and 19th February 2018 – of which a sample of 809 were winter sports holidaymakers. Percentage calculated from a total of 809 winter sports holiday makers of which (43%) and (9%) said they did not know or could not recall.
This guide has been compiled by the Post Office. For your comprehensive guide to travel insurance, travel money and other travel essentials visit the Post Office Travel website here.