Travel Inspiration

Stay Safe on the Slopes with These Snowsport Safety Tips

Photo by Toa Heftiba

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of waking up on a bluebird day atop a mountain after there’s been an overnight dump of fresh snow. You pull on your daggy thermal underwear, slurp up a bowl of oats or something similarly hearty, and rush outside to be among the first up the lift so you can carve dreamy S-turns in the soft powder.

Though snowsports such as skiing and snowboarding are among some of the greatest activities you can do in winter, like pretty much everything fun, they do inevitably come with risks. Our travel insurance experts have been helping customers with snow-related claims for years now – from the demo skis nicked out the front of the Austrian coffee shop to the thousands of dollars racked up in medical bills from a bit of off-piste exploration in Colorado. With their experience and know-how, we’ve compiled a list of handy tips on how to keep safe on the slopes and avoid having to make an insurance claim. 

If things do go belly-up though, the Freely team are just a quick phone call or message away – and you can even start a claim directly through the app.

If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding (or haven’t been on the slopes for a while), get a lesson!

Lessons from a proper instructor are a must when you’re starting out on the mountain – not only to ensure the safety of yourself and other riders, but also so that you learn the correct technique (pizza, French fries!). It’s also not a bad idea to have a refresher if you’ve been away from the slopes for some time, as it’s easy to fall back into old bad habits with your movements that can increase the risk of strain or injury.

Photo by Lex Valishvili

Wear wrist guards (and a helmet, especially if you’re hitting park).

If you’ve ever learned to snowboard, you’ll be achingly familiar with how painful the process can be – with even things like opening door handles proving difficult when your wrists are sore from breaking your fall with your hands so much! Broken wrists are actually a very common injury for snowboarders, so to avoid unnecessary pain, it’s a great idea to wear wrist guards, especially when you’re starting out. Helmets also never go astray, especially if you are riding in the park or off-piste – and considering the average skier and border clock around 40km/h on the slopes, a helmet might just save your life if you have a collision.

 Photo by Steve Johnston

If you own your own gear, get it checked and adjusted by a professional before you hit your first run.

Even if you’ve done loads of skiing and boarding before, if your stuff has been in storage, your bindings could have moved around. You also might be a different weight to the last time you were on the slopes, which is another serious cause for getting your gear adjusted.

Photo by Banff Sunshine Village

Take to the mountain in pairs.

Try to ski or snowboard with at least one other person, especially if you’re going off piste. This will ensure you always have a buddy if you get lost or injured – as well as someone to see you pull off the perfect double cork.

Photo by Alain Wong

The late afternoon is the peak time for injuries – so be aware and avoid tricky runs.

By the time the afternoon rolls around, some keen snowbunnies will have been there for hours – meaning mental and physical exhaustion will have started to set in. Not only that, but unless there’s been a fresh dump, snow tends to get slushier and icier later in the day, which makes it ripe for stacking it. Keep your wits about you, and save the black diamond runs for first thing in the morning!

Photo by Mihály Köles

Ditch your headphones

Yes, we get that skiing or snowboarding down a mountain to your favourite tunes is exhilarating and makes you feel like you’re in a music video, but you’re seriously impairing your hearing by doing so! At the very least, leave one ear free so that you have a better chance of noticing someone coming up behind you, yelling out to warn you of something, or the sound of wild weather approaching.

Photo by Sonalika Vakili

Save the booze for après-ski

Though some mountains are dotted with bars serving winter favourites like mulled wine and hot toddies, alcohol seriously impedes your ability, reflexes and coordination. We’re not saying you can’t drink – we’re just suggesting that you save it for afterwards, and sip on a hot chocolate or a peppermint tea in the daytime instead.

Photo by Nathan Van Egmond 

Gemma is a writer, editor and bush enthusiast living in lutruwita/Tasmania.