By Trent Jonas
A ski outing or trip is a great way for your family to get outside and stay active during the cold weather months. As fun as skiing is, it does come with some risks, from falls to frostbite. We’ve got a few tips to help you keep your family safe and having fun on the slopes this winter.
When you’re thinking about a ski vacation, make sure you choose a resort or ski area that is kid-friendly. An area with accessible and beginner-level terrain is always a plus, depending on the level of experience of everyone in your family. If you’re traveling with little ones, it’s essential that there be a bunny hill for them. Another bonus is if the design of the ski area is convenient, with quick and easy access to the lodging area, bathrooms, etc., just in case your kids need a break.
As a skiing family, you probably have a wide range of abilities from the youngest kid to the most experienced adult. Before you plan a family ski trip, especially if it’s early in the season, hitting the local slopes for a few hours will help you see where everyone’s skiing abilities are.
If the kids—or even the adults—haven’t been on the slopes for a while, it may be worthwhile to take a quick lesson or two before you leave on a ski trip or once you arrive at your destination. There’s nothing like a little pro advice to help you get your form back after the off season.
Pay attention to the slope ratings and don’t hit slopes that are beyond what you’ve skied before—at least not without a guide or a parent. The other thing to remember is that slope ratings can differ considerably from one locale to another. A double-black diamond in the Midwest may not be nearly as gnarly as a double-black diamond in the Rockies. Adults should go over the runs with kids.
If your kids start skiing young or work hard to hone their skills, you could soon be conquering difficult hills with your children in skiing havens like Utah. Check out Ski Utah’s story of Jay and his son Toby Burke. The pair have been skiing together since Toby was just over 18 months old and have since created a strong bond over a shared love for this exhilarating sport.
Always head out to the slopes with another friend or family member. And even adults should avoid the temptation of an empty ski run. If something happens and there’s no one to go get help, the results could, at best, spoil a vacation or, at worst, be disastrous.
When you’re in a ski area, one of the best ways to stay safe is to ski only in designated areas. Out of bounds areas are out of bounds for a reason: They pose risks from everything to trees and tree wells to rough terrain and avalanches. Be sure that the entire family knows what inbounds means and the risks of straying beyond the designated runs.
Layering is important. When you’re skiing, you can risk both overheating and hypothermia. You can find yourself sweating at the bottom of a run and then cold, and swinging in the breeze on a chairlift. So, it’s important to stay dry, stay warm, and wear clothes that can be vented. A moisture-wicking, synthetic base layer, a middle layer, and a wind/waterproof outer layer are key to helping your body maintain its core temperature.
Hydration is key to staying warm, maintaining your performance levels, and staying on the slopes for longer periods of time. In colder conditions, it’s easy to forget to hydrate because both altitude and chill inhibit your desire to do so. Therefore, you need to make sure that you and your children stop often to drink water and take bathroom breaks. Keeping your fluid levels up will keep you warmer and skiing longer.
Skiing is great exercise. You use many of your body’s muscle groups—large and small—when you’re on the slopes (thus the sweating). You’ve got to make sure that your body has enough fuel to sustain the activity throughout the day. Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast at least 90 minutes before hitting the slopes and snack often while you’re skiing.
With the chill and (often) altitude, it’s easy to overdo it when skiing, especially if you’re a child who lets the notion of fun override the signals your body is throwing off. Tired skiing can lead to falls and injuries. Take enforced breaks to rest, stretch, ditch the wet clothes, and warm up for a while.
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