Follow these tips to keep your family safe
If you’re looking forward to a winter skiing holiday, there are some simple things you can do to ensure you and your family come home in one piece.
Preparations to ensure your equipment is in good order and that you understand the area you will be visiting are just as important as having the right insurance ahead of any trip.
Germany's largest tour operator for winter sport holidays, SnowTrex has compiled a helpful top 10 list to keep you safe.
If you are planning to drive during your skiing holiday you should check the tyre pressure is correct, that there are snow-chains in the car, and that the roof rack is tight and secure for the skis. Don’t forget the charger for your mobile phone, as well as a small assortment of medication, hygiene items, warm ski underwear etc. Ideally, one should set up a packing list, to ensure that nothing important is left behind. Also, it is wise to check your ski equipment early, especially for families with children - are ski boots still the correct size, are the skis too long or too short, or maybe they need to be serviced again?
2. Fitness and self-assesment
A sports holiday, such as a ski trip, requires a certain amount of fitness and stamina, which should be attained before the holiday begins. If you think you are fit enough, you should at least warm up before hitting the slopes with a bit of stretching. Often you can find practical information boards in the ski areas, which provide some ideas for warming up, even with skis on your feet. Once you hit the first slope it is really important to self-estimate your skills and adapt your style according to that and to the general piste rules.
3. The International Ski Federation (FIS) piste rules
The 10 golden rules for behaving correctly on the piste should be known to all skiers and should be taken seriously. Topics covered include: being considerate of other riders; knowing your speed and style; choosing the safest way down; being careful when overtaking; paying attention to signs; offering first aid to people who require help; and being sure to carry a personal ID.
4. Helmet obligation
Although there is still no general obligation to wear a helmet in all European countries, the larger winter sports destinations such as Austria and Italy require children aged up to 14 and 15 to wear one. In Germany, France and Switzerland there is no such requirement, however all destinations strongly recommend wearing a helmet. A helmet today is a fashionable accessory, which can be combined with stylish ski goggles.
5. Secure equipment
Functioning skis and boots are the main focus points for a secure set of equipment. According to a study by the German Ski Association, nearly every fifth ski accident can be traced back to faulty equipment. A thorough check should therefore be an elementary part of the holiday preparations. At least once a year, every skier should have their skis serviced. A good grind and waxing ensures that the skis remain intact longer. Checking and re-adjusting the bindings is just as essential. Only when neatly and carefully set will they allow the skier to be released in case of a fall, and therefore prevent serious injuries.
6. Body Protection
If you are more of a speed skier, a freestyler or even snowboarder out and about in freeride areas, protectors should be a standard part of your gear. The polyurethane, foam-based shell offers protection for the back, hips and loin and helps to absorb the impact of a fall, preventing bad bruising or even broken bones. Especially cautious riders, insecure children and snowboard beginners should additionally also wear protectors for the hands, elbows and knees.
When choosing your insurance you should check that it covers what you want it to. Basing your decision solely on lowest cost options from a price comparison website could leave you without adequate cover. Purchasing the best travel insurance policy for yourself and your family can be the most important purchase you make when travelling away from home.
8. Alcohol consumption
In the ski area, the same rules apply as on the streets: act responsibly and do not drink alcohol. Drunk après ski fans are not a welcome sight on the slopes. Reaction time and coordination is profoundly limited and therefore such skiers are not only a danger to themselves, but to others. If you want to indulge in the party atmosphere, better wait until you have reached the foot of the piste.
9. Piste emergency
It is not likely, but not impossible that an accident might occur and someone will have to call out the piste emergency service. In Austria you will need to call 140, while the Swiss helicopter service REGA can be reached under 1414. In Italy you have to dial 118 and in France it is only 15. If you can’t or won’t remember all these different numbers, you can always call the European emergency service on 112 and you will be forwarded to the right station.
10. Safe on the go
Knowledge of the area, avalanche protection, and a fair amount of respect – this is what skiers should have in mind when touring untouched terrain. The most up-to-date avalanche reports should be studied before you leave for a tour. Every ‘freerider’ should carry an avalanche transceiver, a spade and probe, as well as an emergency kit.