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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, 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 snowboarding.

Gearing Up

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:

Dress for Excess

As anyone who has snowboarded 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 have kids dress in layers that they can shed or put on depending on the temperature.

Here's a rundown on what sort of clothes they should wear when they snowboard to avoid hypothermia and frostbite:

Additional Items

While kids should always have the gear and clothing mentioned above, here are a number of other items they might want to consider bringing with them when they snowboard.

Before They Make Their First Turns

One of the most effective ways to prevent injuries while snowboarding is to make sure your kids are in good shape before they go. Stronger muscles will not only help them maintain control, they'll also make boarding 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 make sure they warm up and stretch before they start snowboarding.

When you get to the ski resort, if your kids have never boarded before — or even if they have — sign them up for snowboard lessons. Even the best athletes in the world can't board 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 kids the most one-on-one time with an instructor, but less-expensive group lessons work very well too and are an opportunity to make some new friends.

A Note on the Snowboarder's Blind Spot

One major difference between snowboarding and skiing is that kids will be facing sideways when they board. This creates a blind spot behind them. Let them know that they should always be aware of who or what is around them at all times, and they should be certain there are no other boarders, skiers, or obstacles in their blind spot before they make a heel-edge turn.

This is particularly important for beginner snowboarders. It can be hard for them to take their focus off the slope ahead to make sure it's safe to turn, but it is vital that they make the effort each and every time they do.

Be Smart on the Slopes

So, your kids are in shape, they've got all the right equipment and clothing, and they've taken a few lessons. They're finally ready to go boarding 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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