Winter is nearly upon us and with it plenty of snow. For those who love the crisp, cold weather, this time of year offers retreats, vacations, and sports that no other season can provide. Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are all activities that can take us up into the mountains, deep into the backcountry, and frolicking in the winter wonderland. Though the scenery can be stunning and the activities enjoyable, safety must be a priority when engaging in any kind of snow sport.
Whether you prefer flying down the slopes or driving up over white hills and mounds, these tips can prevent you from accident or injury.
The Basics of Snow Safety
When heading out into the snow-covered mountains, always let someone know where you’ll be. The weather can be disorienting and altitudes may throw you off if you’re not completely familiar with the area. Respect all signs and follow rules and regulations to prevent getting lost and entering potentially unstable terrain. Always carry the appropriate safety equipment, such as proper boots or shoes, clothing, gloves, and goggles as well as avalanche beacons, avalanche airbags and other accessories that could save you in unforeseen circumstances.
If you spend any time snowshoeing, you know the importance of avalanche safety equipment. Though the landscape may be fascinating and the hike peaceful, avalanches are a real danger depending on your location and time of year. Educate yourself on the signs of avalanche territory so that you can recognize it when you see it. Slide paths signal a past avalanche and a slope’s angle and aspect can determine its likelihood of a slide. Check the local forecast and avalanche condition reports before going out. Pay attention to signs and regulations so as not risk wandering into dangerous terrain, too.
Safety on the Snowmobile
Snowmobiling can be invigorating—the powder hitting your face, the ability to access remote areas of untouched snow. But just like driving a car on a paved road, there are safety precautions one must take in order to protect themselves and others from injury. Keeping your snowmobile properly maintained is one way to lower the risk of an accident. Following your owner’s manual for maintenance scheduling is your best bet. Watch for buried hazards, such as tree stumps or rocks that can easily ruin a perfect powder day by breaking your snowmobile. Wearing the appropriate clothes and safety gear will make your ride that much more enjoyable.
For the Skiers
Hitting the slopes on foot this year? Skiing is the most popular of the winter sports and for good reason. It can be a beautiful experience if it’s done right. Prevent frostbite, sunburn, or a damaged joint by going prepared. First off, dress for the weather. The high altitudes and cold temperatures are not always friendly on the skin and eyes. Ski clothes, goggles, and gloves will help. Also, read your lift ticket! You’ll gain valuable information about where to go and not go and how to stick to the area’s rules for a safe experience. If you venture out of bounds, realize that avalanche control work has not been performed and the avalanche danger is real. Be aware of trees, bare spots, rocks, and other natural or manmade objects and keep your eye out for changes in the weather during the day.
As with any sport, sticking to the rules, coming prepared with the right equipment and safety gear, and using your common sense can go a long way. The point of skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, and other winter sports is to have fun. Get the most out of the natural beauty and thrill of it all by staying safe out there this winter.