Gliding through some ski and snowboard safety tipsBy Dr. Lewis First
Since this is National Ski Safety Awareness Week, let me see if I can glide right through a few safety tips on ski and snowboard safety.
More than 20,000 children each year are treated for ski and snowboard injuries. These include beginners as well as those who enjoy taking risks on the hill. There are several ways for you to reduce your child’s risk of becoming a ski or snowboard injury statistic.
First, proper equipment is critical. Be sure to buy or rent skis or snowboards that are appropriate for your child’s skiing ability. The larger or longer the ski or snowboard, the faster it goes and the harder it is to control. Don’t just give your child hand-me-downs that they will grow into. Visit a ski shop and have a trained professional fit all skis, bindings, poles and boots.
Proper equipment also includes a properly fitted helmet. Helmets can reduce the number of serious head injuries in children each year by more than 50 percent.
What if your child will not wear a helmet? The best way to get your children to wear a helmet is for parents to wear one as well. If your kids think it’s not cool, have them customize it with stickers to make it even cooler. And remember, a bike helmet is not a substitute for a ski helmet.
If you or your child is new to a winter sport, take at least one lesson to get your bearings. In your child’s case, consider having them take lessons from a certified ski or snowboard instructor who will not only teach your child how to ski or snowboard but check the fit of the equipment and even teach your child how to get on and off the lifts.
If your children are more experienced, remind them of the rules of the slopes, including stopping only in places where children – and adults – can be seen and are not blocking a trail. If a child is getting onto a trail, make sure they give those coming down past them the right of way. Older children who know how to ski should never go up alone but should always ski with a friend or parent.
Finally, don’t forget to use sun protection, even on cloudy days. That includes eye protection with goggles to filter out the sunrays that can be very bright as they reflect off the snow.
Hopefully tips like this will slide down easily the next time you are concerned about your children being safe while skiing or snowboarding this season.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.