Skiing is an incredibly popular winter sport enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities in many European countries. And although we are not blessed with snow-capped mountains and powdered pistes in Ireland, trips to one of the many ski resorts across Europe have become increasingly popular with Irish tourists in recent years.
Sometimes characterised as a risky and dangerous pursuit, skiing is in fact a relatively safe sport when proper care is taken. So to help you stay safe on your next ski holiday, we have put together some helpful safety advice and tips.
Enjoying a day on the slopes requires a lot of specialised equipment and choosing the right gear for your ski trip is the first step to ensuring you have both a safe and enjoyable holiday. Many people, especially those new to the sport, will opt for hiring their ski equipment rather than purchasing it.
Hiring equipment offers both an affordable and convenient way to access ski equipment and you can normally find a choice of stores close to the ski resort. Make sure to get a recommendation from the staff at your resort so you can make sure you are renting from a trustworthy company.
"If you decide to buy your own equipment, make sure that you buy it from a reputable and authorised store."
You should never borrow equipment from a friend or family member to save some money as their equipment may not be suited to you or the unique conditions you may encounter at your resort.
You should also avoid purchasing used or second-hand equipment online or in a classified advert, especially if you are unfamiliar with ski equipment. If you already own your own ski equipment, make sure to have it checked out by an experienced technician before you hit the slopes.
Whether you purchase or rent your equipment, an essential part of ski safety is that you have your bindings set correctly. A binding is the device which attaches your ski boot to your ski and they have a built in safety mechanism to prevent injury which releases the ski if you fall or have an accident.
The force with which the binding releases must be set by a technician based on your weight, height and even skiing ability. If it is too low, your ski may come lose prematurely. If it is too high, you run the risk of serious injury. As such, we highly recommend that your bindings are set and checked by an experienced technician before you ski.
Ski helmets have become increasingly common on the ski slopes of Europe in recent years, but some riders still refuse to wear them. This is despite the fact that more than half of all serious ski injuries and fatalities are caused by head injuries.
As such, we strongly recommend that you and everyone in your party wear a properly fitting and suitable ski helmet at all times on the slopes.
"A review of research by EuroSafe has shown that wearing a ski helmet can reduce your risk of suffering a head injury by up to 45%, making this one a no brainer in our opinion."
Skiing is a sport that requires a lot of strength, endurance and agility, and enjoying a day on the slopes can be as physically exhausting as it is exhilarating. One thing you can do to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip is to make an effort to get in shape.
Having a good level of general fitness will not only make the experience all the more enjoyable, but also help to reduce your risk of suffering an injury. Regular exercise in the lead up to your trip will mean your body is better able to endure the stresses and strains that skiing puts on it. Building and strengthening the muscles in your legs in particular can significantly reduce the risk of leg injuries which are all too common among skiers.
When you arrive at the resort, one of the first things you will want to do is familiarise yourself with the area. It is surprising how easy it is to get lost when your only point of reference is a blanket of white snow, so consult a map and take it with you before you head off for the day.
You should also regularly check the weather forecast before exploring the area and get a good understanding of the local surroundings. If you are a relative novice, you will also need to quickly learn and memorise the many signs and marking you will encounter on and near the piste, which are essential to ski safety.
Lastly, you should keep in mind the effects the altitude may have on your body. While your resort is unlikely to be high enough to cause any acute effects, even a moderate change in altitude can cause your body to become tired and fatigued more quickly, so give yourself time to adjust and take things slowly at first.
Knowing and staying within your limits is one of the most important aspects of ski safety. If you are new to skiing, you should first take a few lessons from a qualified ski instructor before hitting the slopes. Once you have the basics down, stick to ski runs which are designated as being suitable for beginners.
"Many people get themselves into trouble by tackling slopes which they are not skilled enough for and struggle to keep up with the pace."
If there are experienced skiers in your party, try to resist the temptation to join them on more advanced slopes and stay within your comfort zone.
Regardless of which slopes you are skiing on, know when to call it a day. Many people get themselves into trouble when they have a “just one more run” attitude. Skiing while tired and fatigued or as the weather worsens is never a good idea and you would be must better served saving some for the next day.
As the ski resorts of Europe become busier and busier and changing weather conditions means less snow on the slopes for everyone to enjoy, off-piste skiing has become increasingly popular. Off-piste skiing involves leaving the boundaries of the resort in search of more remote locations which offer deeper and steeper snow and more challenging conditions.
While the attraction of off-piste skiing may be apparent, it also comes with considerable risk. We recommend that you leave this pursuit to the highly skilled and experienced skiers and enjoy all that the resort has to offer instead.
"If you absolutely have to ski off-piste, make sure you have all of the necessary safety equipment including a transceiver, shovel and probe. Never under any circumstances should you go off-piste alone and always make sure to tell others where you intend to go and when you will be back."
Last, but certainly not least, make sure that your ski travel insurance is valid and up to date. While insurance can’t prevent you from having an injury, it can prevent you from being landed with a nasty hospital bill. You can add ski insurance to all of our great value travel insurance packages. Even better, if you purchase a multi-trip insurance policy from AIG, you get up to 17 days of ski cover absolutely free. To see our latest deals on ski insurance or to get a quote, visit our ski and winter sports travel insurance page now.