For some, the start of the snow season means strapping on the skis, or a board, and battling a black diamond slope. For others, it means wobbling and weaving down a gentle descent for the very first time.
For us, the start of the snow season means broken bones, bruised backsides, and a whole suite of unlucky snow bunnies.
Whether it's the Alps, Aspen, or somewhere closer to home, a holiday to the snow can be the perfect combination of adrenaline and relaxation. However, we know first-hand that the snow is as dangerous as it is beautiful. In this article, we outline common skiing mistakes and provide you with some tips to keep you safe at every stage of your adventure.
How to pack for a trip to the snow
The perfect snow holiday always begins with great preparation, but as any veteran will tell you, packing for a skiing trip isn’t as simple as a beachside getaway. And when your lips are cracking from a day of blistering winds, it’s those little things like lip balm that you wish you hadn’t forgotten.
It’s a good idea to divide your packing into “on the slopes” and “off the slopes” lists. Remember, skiing holidays are rarely all about hurtling down the mountainside - your accommodation may have a swimming pool, gym and fine dining restaurants. Research your resort and the activities on offer in town, and pack your luggage accordingly.
Skiing is hard work on your body, which is why the following items are essential but often overlooked:
- Deep heat muscle rubs
- Lip balm with sun protection
- High SPF sunscreen
- Basic first aid kit including painkillers
- Knee braces or compression gear
- Orthotics for your ski boots
Renting vs. buying skiing equipment
It’s an age-old debate; are you better off renting skiing equipment when you get to the snow, or buying your own gear and taking it with you? Rental equipment isn’t always of the best quality or the perfect fit, but when you factor in the high prices airlines charge for oversized baggage, you may be left with no other choice than to hire your gear.
You’ll also need to account for storing your gear, the risk of damage in transit, and whether you’re continuing your holiday elsewhere after visiting the slopes. If your ski gear is really premium, it will need to be disclosed as a high value item, too.
Let’s look into things to consider for each alternative.
Renting ski equipment
If you’re an infrequent skier, hiring your equipment may be the obvious choice. Ski shops usually offer the full package of equipment for you to rent, from skis, poles, snowboards and boots to helmets, jackets and goggles. The goal is to hire comfortable and safe equipment that is suited to your skill level.
Be sure to tell the shop assistant your level of skiing experience so they can recommend the right hire gear for your ability. If you’re overseas, it’s likely you’ll be at a mountain you haven’t skied before, or at least haven’t been on in a while. The staff at the rental shops are familiar with the terrain and will have a good idea of what the snow conditions are like. They can give you the best recommendations for the mountain and the snow, so you can focus on enjoying yourself instead of worrying about whether your equipment is right for the conditions.
For more experienced skiers and snowboarders, renting from the pro shop can also be a great way to try out those new skis you love before you buy them. You can opt to hire the latest skis and snowboards for just a little extra fee, or even swap them during the day to try different models back to back.
How to find the right ski boots
The wrong pair of ski boots can make your skiing experience uncomfortable and dangerous, so be sure to spend some time trying on pairs until you find the perfect fit. The shop assistant should adjust the clips of the boot to your size, and instruct you of their purpose. Remember, ski boots aren’t like your regular shoes. A good rule of thumb for both ski and snowboard boots is that if your toes don’t touch the end of the boot when you first put it on, it’s too big. When all of the clips are correctly adjusted, your toes should recede from the end and your heel should be stabilised at the back of the boot. Don’t be surprised if you find them difficult to walk in, either!
If you’re renting your ski equipment, never settle for anything that is uncomfortable, ill-fitting or damaged. It’s often said that you’re only as safe as your equipment!
Taking your own ski gear
More experienced skiers may like to take their own equipment with them, however travelling with oversized baggage can be challenging. Depending on your airline, you may be stung with expensive excess baggage fees.
Sporting equipment has an unfortunate habit of being damaged in transit, so ensure you pack your gear carefully using bubble wrap, foam and electrical tape to reduce any movement inside the bag. Another handy way to protect your gear is to pack your ski clothing inside your ski bag as extra padding. Once you’ve landed, ensure your gear is in safe working condition before using it. You might want to pay a visit to the maintenance shop on the mountain to get your skis or board freshly waxed if they’ve been sitting a while. Again, the quality of your equipment is critical to keep you safe on the slopes.
Our TravelCare policy covers you for damage to your sporting equipment while in checked luggage (if your airline has refused to provide compensation) for up to $1500. If your equipment is worth more than $1500, you’ll need to specify it as a high value item.
Just be aware, your skiing equipment won’t be covered for damage while it’s in use, so try to avoid any exposed rocks that might scratch your skis! It’s your call, but with the wide variety of gear that’s available for hire, renting is often the best option.
Staying safe on the slopes
When faced with a glistening expanse of fresh powder snow, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind and tackle a run you’re not ready for. However, even experienced skiers should always assess the conditions and be honest with their ability.
There’s a lot more to staying safe on the slopes than sticking to your limits. Avoiding collisions, understanding the weather, knowing your equipment, abiding by local rules, exercising good etiquette and protecting your gear are all essential to a safe skiing holiday.
General skiing safety tips include:
- Always ski with a friend
- Stay hydrated
- Pay attention to the grade of the run – green is usually for beginners, blue for intermediate and black diamond for advanced
- Keep a map of the ski runs with you, so you don’t get lost
- Don’t shy away from ski lessons, no matter your skill level
- If you feel that the slope exceeds your ability, move to the edge of the piste (track) and side step down the slope.
All skiers have a code of conduct to follow, and individual skiing destinations will have their own sets of etiquette.
Generally speaking, all skiers are expected to:
- Stay in control
- Stop in a safe place for yourself and others
- Remember that people ahead of you have right of way
- Always look uphill before starting off
- Prevent runaway equipment
- Always obey signs and warnings
- Observe proper lift safety
5 common skiing mistakes
Whether you’re skiing for the first time or taking your annual adventure to the snow, it’s important that you don’t fall into a few common traps. These five skiing mistakes are easy to commit and dangerous for all involved.
Overestimating your abilities - One of the most common and most dangerous skiing mistakes, overestimating your abilities can quickly put yourself and others at risk. Be honest with yourself and don’t overlook ski school to brush up on your skills.
Going off-piste - Going off-piste (beyond the prepared ski runs) is especially dangerous for beginner and intermediate skiers. Off-piste areas may be riddled with hidden rocks, drops and branches. It is also important to know that we can’t cover you if you’re skiing off-piste.
Overlooking the altitude - Skiing can be a vigorous activity, and you may find your breath gets away from you more easily at altitude. Remember to stay hydrated and take regular rest stops.
Renting poor quality equipment - As mentioned previously, you’re only as safe as your equipment. Ensure you only hire well-fitting, durable and undamaged gear.
Ignoring bad weather - Whatever your holiday, it’s important that you remember to monitor weather conditions and forecasts.
Conditions can change rapidly on the slopes, with clear days turning into complete white-outs with little warning.
Skiing and your travel insurance
We’re proud to offer skiing cover at no extra cost under our TravelCare policy.
However, there are a few things travellers should remember so they can be confident they stay insured:
- Always ski in an amateur downhill ski field and stay on piste (in the designated skiing area)
- We can’t cover you for damage to your equipment that occurs while skiing
- Avoid heli-skiing, racing and competitive skiing
- Never leave your valuables unattended while hitting the slopes - keep them secured in the resort safe if provided.
If you have a story about a mishap on the slopes, or a top tip for staying safe on the mountain, we’d love to hear it! Send us an email at email@example.com and tell us more.
We won’t identify you unless you say we can, and we won’t use this information for any other purpose than marketing. If you’d like a copy of all the information we hold about you, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.