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Winter Safety

Downhill skiing and snowboarding

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Downhill skiing and snowboarding are great ways to enjoy being outside in the winter. As with most winter sports, there's a risk of getting hurt when you ski or snowboard. Injuries happen most often because of:

  • going too fast and losing control
  • running into other boarders, skiers, or objects
  • being tired
  • using equipment that doesn’t fit or work right
  • not having enough experience
  • being out in bad weather or low light (such as when it’s snowing or starting to get dark)

Follow these safety tips the next time you ski or snowboard

Before you go:

  • Find out weather and snow conditions in advance
  • Warm up and stretch
  • Lubricate and adjust bindings every season
  • Make sure your equipment fits right and is well maintained
  • Make sure your equipment is right for your skill level
  • Buckle up your helmet, boots, and bindings correctly before you start down the hill.
  • Know the signs of a concussion (brain injury), because there’s a risk of falling or crashing while skiing or snowboarding.
  • Plan to go with someone—never ski or snowboard alone.
  • Take ski or snowboarding lessons with a certified instructor. Get tips on good technique and the best ways to fall. Get training and experience before doing advanced moves (like jumps or flips)
  • Choose your child’s activity carefully. Parachute (a leading safety organization) recommends that children younger than 7 years old shouldn’t try snowboarding. And children who are older than 7 years old should use short boards that are no more than chest high.

While you're skiing and snowboarding:

  • Read and follow all posted signs and warnings.
  • Match your speed to the snow conditions, traffic on the hill, and the skill of the people around you.
  • Watch for dangers such as trees, rocks, and ice patches.
  • Choose runs that are right for your ability and will help you get skills.
  • Start on an easier slope to practice turning and stopping.
  • Check the landing area before you go over a jump to make sure it’s safe. Or have another person (a spotter) check the area for you.
  • Stop and rest when you’re tired.
  • Go inside if you get cold.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or use other drugs when you drive to and from the hill, or while you’re skiing or snowboarding.
  • Using alcohol and other drugs, like cannabis, can put you at higher risk of getting hurt or hurting someone else when you ski or snowboard.

Protective Gear

The right gear that fits well can protect you from getting hurt. Go to a trusted ski and snowboard shop for help with your gear, and have it checked regularly.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children and families wear gear such as:

  • a certified helmet​ ​​to lower the risk of head injuries (Make sure your helmet has side vents so you can hear.)
  • ski goggles or sunglasses with UV protection
  • wrist guards while snowboarding (Sprained or broken wrists are common snowboarding injuries.)

Check the weather before you dress for the day. It’s also important to wear:

  • sunscreen to protect from sunburn
  • waterproof and windproof layers

Current as of: September 17, 2021

Author: Injury Prevention, Alberta Health Services