Winter is on the way, and with it come thoughts of flying down a snowy mountain slope. Skiers and boarders long for the first good snow of the year, and many people start planning a winter ski vacation.
It’s great fun, but it pays to be careful. Let’s face it – speeding down a slippery slope on a piece or two of wood, in freezing high altitude conditions, is not what the human body was designed for!
The risks of skiing and boarding are well known. Severe injuries are possible, or even death – which may be caused by avalanches, falls or lack of safety equipment. So which five essential itemsshould you be sure to take, when jetting off for this winter’s ski or snowboarding holiday?
It doesn’t get more important than this. Your head is your most technical piece of equipment, and protecting it is your number one priority on the mountain. Ice, rocks, skis and even other people’s knees and elbows are all harder than your head, so do the sensible thing and get a lid.
Over the past couple of years the image of wearing a helmet has changed dramatically, and with the variety that’s currently available, there’s no excuse not to. Helmets are compulsory at some resorts, and are the #1 safety accessory according to the independent snowboarding holiday guide.
Proper eye wear
It is easy to underestimate the need for proper eyewear in the mountains. The sun is strong at high altitude, and when it’s reflecting off the snow, you get a double dose. Quick science bit – albedo is the reflecting power of a surface, and has its own scale (between 0 and 1). Your typical road or pavement will have a measure of 0.1-0.15, fresh snow is as high as 0.9.
If you don’t wear proper goggles or sunglasses, then you risk permanent damage to your eyes. They can also greatly improve your vision on the slopes, helping you see the bumps ahead instead of just a field of white. So along with that helmet, wear a good set of goggles.
Good quality thermals
You can spend hundreds, even thousands, on top of the line ski jackets and trousers in an attempt to keep yourself warm. For the one week a year skier, this pricing just isn’t practical or realistic. Skiing is an expensive enough pastime as it is. However when you’re out in freezing January temperatures, staying warm is critical.
Instead of blowing the budget on high tech outer gear, a good set of thermals underneath can provide needed warmth. Broadly speaking, if you keep your core toasty warm, then the body has enough heat to keep the extremities warm, too. Make sure to get thermals with a fabric that wicks sweat away from your body. This is much safer for winter wear than cotton, which absorbs and holds moisture.
Insulated water bottle
What you need is an insulated aluminum water bottle to keep with you on the slopes. If you try one of the platypus style hydration packs, it could freeze and split mid winter, leaving you with a wet and very cold back.
Often ski holidays are combined with late nights and drinking. Combined with strenuous exertion the day after, you stand a very real risk of dehydration. This will not help your performance on the hill, or your health and safety. Keep drinking water through the day, refilling your bottle when you can.
This is somewhat of an oxymoron, as common sense doesn’t seem to be that common. The FIS Rules for Conduct on the Mountain give you a good safety foundation. If follow those then you won’t do a lot wrong on the piste.
It does come back to common sense, though. If you use your brain when you’re on the hill and consider other people around you, then you should keep yourself safe and not be a danger to others. But remember that while you are being considerate, not everyone else on the mountain may be doing the same. Keep your wits about you, and watch out.
There are obviously other pieces of gear you may want beyond these essentials. If you’re heading off trail, remember the Holy Trinity of beeper, shovel and probe. You may also think of wrist guards, slam pants or back protectors. But the list of 5 essentials above is designed to give you a good starting point, for staying safe on your ski or snowboarding vacation.
Don’t let this safety talk put you off booking your catered ski holiday for next season! With just some small expenditures and a few precautions, you’ll can have a safe and happy ski vacation, and be a responsible mountain user.