Like any adventure sport, skiing and snowboarding comes with a level of risk. We certainly don’t want to scare you off your epic snow adventure, but before you hit the slopes, we’d like to educate you about the most common snow travel insurance claims and emergency assistance calls we receive. You can then reduce your chances of becoming one of the unfortunate ones whose holiday does go pear shaped.
1. Always buy or rent a helmet and wrist guards (especially wrist guards when snow-boarding)
With the average skier and boarder easily doing over 40km per hour, a helmet may just save your life if you were to hit a tree, rock or fellow skier or boarder. Broken wrists are a common injury for snowboarders, especially for those new to the sport who naturally put their hands down to break their fall, which many do a lot of when learning.
2. Get professional lessons if you’re new to skiing or boarding or haven’t done it in a while
Lessons are offered in almost all ski resorts. They’ll help you get up and skiing quicker and teach you the right techniques, which should reduce your chances of being injured. However often you’ve skied or boarded before, a lesson is a good idea as refresher course or to take you to the next level.
3. Ski and board to a maximum of 90% of your ability and confidence
Peer pressure is a powerful force, but now you’re an adult and less flexible than you were as a kid, it’s time to stand up for your body and say ‘No’ if a run or jump is beyond your ability or confidence level.
4. Stretch, warm up and build up to the more difficult runs and conditions over the week
Heading straight to the terrain park on day one when you haven’t boarded in three years, is going to increase your chances of injury and end up ruining the snow holiday you’ve been waiting three years for. Do a few easy runs to warm up and build up your skills and confidence before you hit the double black diamond run or hit the biggest kicker you can find.
5. Always get your gear checked and adjusted by a professional (ski hire store) before you do your first run
Your bindings may have moved, you may have lost or put on weight since the last time you skied, so you’ll definitely need your gear adjusted.
6. Pay more attention and avoid difficult runs in the late afternoon
Late afternoons can be a key time for injuries when you and others on the mountain are physically and mentally tired, the snow is icy or slushy, visibility is diminished with the sun setting or a change of weather rolls in.
7. Ski to the snow and weather conditions
Snow and weather conditions can change dramatically in snow fields due to their elevation and mountainous geography.
Snow can be groomed, deep powder, icy or slushy and you might get all these conditions on the one mountain over the course of the day due to sun, wind, rain, snow falls and whatever the groomers did the night before.
The weather can also change dramatically. It may be overcast in the village and sunny at the top, windy, snowing, a blizzard or complete white out, reducing your visibility. Whatever the conditions, as you would when driving, adjust to the conditions by slowing down and paying more attention to avoid other skiers and any dangers.
8. Always ski or board in pairs and never alone
You never want to find yourself injured or lost on a mountain by yourself. Always ski with a group or in a pair at a minimum. If you find yourself at a snowfield by yourself, they generally have volunteers who run free mountain tours who you can join for a couple of hours. You’ll likely meet other fellow solos to spend the rest of the day with, and a few simple hellos on a chairlift should be enough to find someone to hit the slopes with.
9. Save the alcohol drinking for après-ski
Drinking on the mountain or during the day will hamper your coordination, ability and reflexes, which are crucial to skiing and boarding. Hold off for the day, enjoy a hot chocolate instead and the après-ski drinks will taste much better.
Alcohol will also lower your bodies core temperature which is never a good thing in extreme cold climates.
10. Stay inside the resort boundaries and follow the regulations published by the resort
If you head outside the boundaries to find an epic powder stash, it’s likely the area hasn’t been checked for safety. The snow patrol isn’t obligated to help you and your travel insurance certainly won’t cover you.
11. Lose the headphones
Some people like to wear headphones and listen to music whilst on the mountain. This is supported by helmet, beanie and jacket manufacturers who include headphones, jacks or pockets to assist this. The problem is, by putting headphones in, you’re removing one of your senses (hearing) which might help you avoid danger such as hearing someone coming from behind you, someone yelling to warn you, an avalanche, lightening or thunder.
12. Be careful, very careful with food, water and ice, especially in less developed countries
A bout of food poisoning can ruin a holiday, but could only be the start of a serious medical situation as dehydration develops and you’re forced into seeking treatment from a hospital with lower standards than you are used to.
13. Keep all your snow gear (skis & boards) and luggage at arm’s length and sight at all times
Skis and boards are stolen on ski slopes or can be taken by mistake by a fellow skier, as are goggles, jackets, helmets and gloves. When you stop for a drink, lunch or break, make sure you keep all you snow equipment with you. Putting skis and boards on a rack, going inside and sitting down for an hour may be what everyone else does, but it presents an opportunity for your ski gear to be stolen or taken by mistake. Your travel insurance won’t cover them if they’ve been left out of sight and reach.
The same goes for all your luggage, bags and items when you’re in tourist hotspots, on transport (planes, trains and buses) or in your hotel.
14. Avoid logging into your bank account or entering passwords when using free public wi-fi – it’s not safe
Accessing public wi-fi to check the weather and posting that perfect photo may be ok, however, only access your banking details in a secure environment.
Need more information?
15. Read our off-piste travel insurance guide
Read this guide on the common questions we get about off-piste skiing and snowboarding, and why it’s important to have a travel insurance policy that covers the type of snow sports you want to do.
16. Read our general tips
Read our tips to educate you about the top 29 travel risks and hopefully reduce the chances of the most common incidents happening to you.
Skiing and boarding holidays are meant to be fun, exciting and exhilarating, but occasionally things can go wrong despite your best efforts. Knowing the things that could possibly go wrong can help you to prepare for such eventualities, and to minimise or even prevent an incident or accident from happening.
So make sure you’re prepared and enjoy the slopes!