5 Top Tips for Safe Snow Travel

Planning to go skiing or snowboarding this winter? It's up to you to be responsible and mindful of others for not just your safety, but theirs too. Here are our top tips to stay safe on your snow vacation.

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Alpine Responsibility Code

You may see a set of rules on display at the resort where you are skiing or snowboarding, they are likely the Alpine Responsibility Code. The code is accepted by most snow sports authorities and resorts across the world (they can slightly vary from place to place) and set as the guidelines that snow users should follow so everyone has a safe and enjoyable time. It's a good mix of safety protocols and common sense, so have a look at them next time you are out on the slopes.

Health Tips

  • Always ski or snowboard within your limits and ability. If you start to feel fatigued on the slope, take a break or call it a day
  • Try to maintain a reasonable level of fitness. Not only does it make skiing or snowboarding easier and strengthens your body, it assists in minimizing injury
  • On a sunny day it's easy to get sunburnt on the snow, so apply a broad spectrum sunblock or zinc
  • Lip balm is also handy to prevent your lips from getting chapped and wind burnt
  • Fuel your body for the day with protein and carbs. Avoid greasy, heavy foods. Don't forget to pack some snacks if you get peckish while on a run
  • Stay hydrated
  • Stretch and massage those muscles at the end of the day. Make friends with the sauna and warm swimming pool at the resort.

Weather Conditions

No matter where you go for the snow, be it Canada, New Zealand, Japan, USA or France, there will be days where the weather is good, however it can be hard to predict when the weather will turn bad. A change in conditions can happen rapidly and visibility will drop to almost nil, putting you in a dangerous situation.

When you're up on the mountain, keep an eye out for dark clouds. In a white out, the clouds will tend to look white. You'll see it rolling in and when it does it can happen very quickly. If you get stuck, the best thing to do is to catch the chair down if possible.

During the day your snow gear might become wet, and wet gear will freeze quickly, so it's important to get down the mountain before you get caught out. Pay attention to any sudden drops in the temperature, when this happens it can signal a change in the weather.

Safety at Night

The action doesn't stop once the sun goes down at ski resorts. Aside from night riding, many ski resorts have a vibrant nightlife with live music, bars open til all hours, cheap drinks, and cosy pubs. Here are some tips so you can stay safe:

  • Head out in a group if possible – safety in numbers
  • Wear your ski jacket out or dress warm, as temperatures drop noticebly when the sun goes down
  • If you're at a higher altitude, drinking alcohol will have a bigger affect and results in you getting drunk faster. Pace yourself and drink in moderation
  • In some locations, bar tenders survive off the tips they receive, so lay out a few dollars as a starter tip to get the attention and service from a bartender. In the USA, neglecting to tip means you won’t get served. Tipping one or two dollars is sufficient
  • When going home, make sure you know the directions. Every snow season, there are incidents where people are intoxicated and end up freezing to death or suffering from serious exposure on the way home.

Driving in Winter

Driving in winter is hazardous, so it's important to be prepared before driving in icy conditions. Visibility can be limited and the road surfaces can become very slippery.

  • Check your car before leaving home. Is the battery okay? Are the tyres inflated enough? Are your windscreen wipers new? Does the air conditioning work if you need to de-mist the windscreen?
  • If you have hired a car, ask the rental staff about any compulsory road rules in winter. Do you have to drive with dipped headlights? Are snow chains or specific tyres compulsory?
  • Always drive to conditions. The road surface may have black ice, so avoid speeding or braking suddenly. Take corners and curves smoothly and leave plenty of distance between you and the driver in front in case they brake suddenly
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B. Driving in snowy conditions means you will drive slower than normal
  • During snow season, snow chains will be required if you're not driving a four wheel drive. Check with your rental company or the motoring authority in the country you are traveling for more information
  • Try avoid driving at dusk and at night. Not only is visibility reduced, you may unfortunately run into wildlife
  • If driving long distances, pack extra food, water, blankets and a flashlight with spare batteries. It's handy to keep a full fuel can just in case it's a long way between gas stations. If you can, take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and if possible, share the driving
  • Keep your phone charged and carry a powerbank with you just in case of emergency. If driving remotely, carry a locator beacon in the case of an emergency where there is no cell phone reception.

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