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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, manmade 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.

Gearing Up

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:

Dress for Excess

As anyone who has skied on a cold day can tell you, it's no fun if you don't have enough warm clothing. Likewise, on hot days having too many clothes can make kids sweat, which will lead to them getting cold when the sun dips behind a cloud or the mountains. The best way to tackle this situation is to dress kids in layers that they can shed or put on depending on the temperature.

Here's a rundown on what sort of clothes your kids should wear when skiing to avoid hypothermia and frostbite:

Additional Items

In addition to the gear and clothing previously mentioned, other items your kids might want to bring with them when they ski include:

Before They Make Their First Turns

One of the most effective ways to prevent injuries while skiing is to make sure your kids are in good shape before they ski. Stronger muscles will not only help them maintain control, they'll also make skiing more fun. If you know your kids will be hitting the slopes in the winter, make sure they get regular exercise in the summer and fall. They'll be glad they did. And remind your kids to always warm up and stretch before they start skiing.

When you get to the ski resort, if your kids have never skied before — or even if they have — sign them up for ski lessons. Even the best athletes in the world can't ski on their own the first time out. The best way to learn is from a trained instructor certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). Private lessons will give your kids the most one-on-one time with an instructor, but less-expensive ski school lessons work very well too and are an opportunity to make some new friends.

Be Smart on the Slopes

So, your kids have gotten themselves in shape, they've got all the right equipment and clothing, and they've taken a few lessons. They're finally ready to go skiing on their own.

There are still a few important things for them to remember to keep themselves safe, though:

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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