For outdoors enthusiasts, the holiday season marks the beginning of winter sports season with ample opportunities to hit the slopes and have some powdery fun. Much like the ten lords-a-leaping, this post in Passport Health’s holiday travel tips series will help to keep you safe as you go leaping and bounding around your favorite ski resorts. Whether your winter sports travels will keep you close to home, up to the Rocky Mountains, or even to an exotic location like Korea, follow these tips to be prepared for your dream trip.
Preparation is always the first and most important consideration! You need to be sure that you are physically capable of a skiing, snowboarding, or generally active trip before you go. Be sure you are fit for the activities you plan to undertake. In the event of an unexpected injury, you need to be prepared for what you might have to do to seek out help, which could be as simple as hiking down the mountain or as difficult as surviving until help reaches you.
Prepare Your Gear
Just as important as being ready physically is having the right equipment for your situation. It is challenging to stay warm in extreme winter temperatures! Be sure to layer. A light base-layer followed by a light pull-over and a heavy jacket is a good starting place, but, once again, proper attire will vary from person-to-person and situation-to-situation. Warm boots are a must, and make sure they have good traction as well to prevent slips and falls on icy sidewalks as you trek around town after your time on the slopes.
As a general rule, you can always take off or not use clothing, but finding or buying more can be stressful, expensive, and sometimes impossible. Bring a little more than you think you might need. It is better to take off a layer than to wish you would have had it!
Dress Warmly and Stay Dry
It is advisable to bring extra clothes out to the mountain each day. Many places have a location where you can stash some gear, be it a locker or your car in a parking lot. Always keep a few extra articles in case you end up getting too cold and need another layer or you get wet. Nothing will ruin your trip faster, and be more dangerous, than combining cold and wet while on your trip.
Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia
These are the two greatest dangers associated with outdoor activity during the winter months. The best way to avoid both of these issues is to stay warm and dry, but, if you do get overexposed, there are a few things to do:
- For both frostbite and hypothermia, get into a warmer environment as quickly as possible; this can save your life
- For frostbitten limbs, never rub or massage, but do use your armpits, a warm companion, warm drinks, and warm clothes to thaw your frozen body parts.
- For more information on both issues see the this NOAA page.
Stay Clear of Ice
When walking or driving, watch for ice! If you are going over an icy area when walking, do so very carefully. Wear shoes or boots that provide traction and point your feet slightly outward (like a penguin). This will help you stay more stable. When getting in and out of a vehicle or building, use something as support to help you make the transition from a solid to potentially slippery surface.
While ice can be a nuisance while walking, it can be deadly while driving. Never use cruise control if there is a potential for ice on the roads, and be sure your vehicle is using the correct tires for your specific conditions. If you are involved in an accident, stay with your vehicle. This will provide you with additional protection and warmth that won’t be available in the wild. Tie a brightly colored cloth to your antenna to signal distress, and consider leaving on a dome light in the vehicle if it is nighttime. Dome lights use little power and can be a good signal to other motorists and potential rescuers.
Before hitting the slopes or trails, be sure to warm up. Stretching is one of the best methods making sure you adequately prepare your legs and core, the two muscle groups you are most likely to use. When doing these warm ups, however, try not to sweat. Sweat can leave a wet mist on your body and make you excessively cold once you get outside, leading to other problems.
Amazingly enough, cold weather is one of the times where you are at highest risk for dehydration. Often when people are in cold climates, they do not realize that they are sweating and losing water, but dehydration is indeed still happening. Be sure to drink lots of water on a regular basis as you go about your winter activities. Being excessively thirsty is one of the first signs of dehydration. If you start to feel excessive thirst, electrolyte products like Ceralyte can be a great help!
Know Your Limit
‘One more run’ is when you think that one more trip down the mountain won’t hurt you; however, it can. If your legs are feeling heavy, it’s better to head back to your lodge or vehicle than to continue pushing through your activity. Doing just one more when you are exhausted and less able to control your body can lead to injury. Be safe and skip that last run; your body will thank you when you are able to do more the next day!
On average, 22 skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers die each year in backcountry avalanches in the United States. While this isn’t a high statistic compared to the enormous number of people that go into the forests each winter, it still represents more deaths than there should be. Surprisingly, many of these victims are experienced outdoors people. Always be careful! Stay on designated trails if you are at a resort. If you are making your own way in the backcountry, time your activities. Morning is better than the afternoon and cold days are better than warm ones. Use good judgement. If there is a doubt about your slope, come back another day; one run isn’t worth a tragic accident.
What winter trips do you like to take and how do you prepare for them? Comment below or on our Facebook page and let us know!