There’s nothing like going outdoors and really enjoying the winter weather.
Whether you’re sticking to your neighborhood, or going on an adventure to a wintry destination, what can you do to make sure you’re staying safe and healthy, while still having a snowy good time?
Here are some expert-approved safety guidelines for a few of our favorite winter activities:
Hiking is an amazingly invigorating activity. It’s a great way to connect with the natural world and experience some of the most stunning sights out there, while also staying active. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re safe during your next winter hike:
- Dress in layers. The American Hiking Society (AHS) recommends that you wear “several layers you can peel off or put on when you stop-and-go on the trail,” with a “wicking material” as the base layer to help pull sweat away from the skin.
- Wear proper footwear. Are you prepared for the possibility of a lot of snow or ice covering your trail? Proper footwear is a must. The North Country Trail Association suggests that hikers invest in waterproof footwear “with a good tread.” They also encourage hikers to “wear snowshoes if the snow is deep,” and look into additional traction devices that can clip onto your hiking boots to help provide you with a better grip on the terrain. Finally, they encourage hikers to “use trekking poles with carbide tips” to enhance their stability on icy surfaces. And if it comes to it? Don’t hesitate to delay your hiking trip until the ice clears.
- Stay hydrated. It can be tempting to put off drinking water when it’s chilly outside, but it’s important to remember that your body needs hydration. Make sure to take a water bottle with you, and regularly drink up during your winter hike. The AHS recommends bringing a bottle koozie, or storing your water bottle on the inside of your jacket, to prevent it from freezing and possibly cracking.
- Be aware of reduced visibility. The North Country Trail Association reminds hikers that visibility may be reduced during winter hikes, due to weather conditions and shorter daylight hours. They remind hikers to always go equipped with a light, such as a headlamp, as well as a map and navigation tools.
- Carry the “10 Essentials.” The AHS has a list of ten essential items that hikers should carry on every outing, including extra food and water, sunscreen, water-repellent clothing, a compass, and a first aid kit. This packing list is absolutely vital for winter hikes. You can find a full rundown of the “10 Essentials of Hiking” here.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Whether you’re more a fan of the bunny trail or the black diamond, skiing and snowboarding are winter pastimes for good reason. There’s nothing like zooming down the side of a hill or a mountain, feeling the powder beneath your feet and the crisp cold wind all around you. Even better? Health experts have called skiing a “ridiculously good workout,” which can help to improve your balance, flex your muscles, strengthen your bones, and protect your heart, all at once.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for the next time you hit the slopes:
- Make sure you have proper equipment. If you have ski or snowboarding gear of your own, make sure you get all of your equipment inspected and fine-tuned (such as having your bindings adjusted) at the start of the season. If you rent or borrow equipment, make sure you inspect it for any damages before hitting the slopes.
- Dress warmly. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) encourages skiers and snowboarders to dress in layers, in order to “accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature.” This organization also encourages skiers to bring a headband or hat to the slopes to stop heat from escaping via the top of your head, and wear gloves or mittens to protect your hands.
- Don’t forget to take the sun into account. Be sure to apply sunblock and wear protective eyewear. As the NSAA reminds us, “the sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, even on cloudy days.”
- Stick to the trail. The National Safety Council encourages riders to “never ski on closed runs or out of boundaries.” These areas are not monitored, and could be full of safety hazards.
- Show respect on the slopes. For your safety and others’, be sure to give the skiers or boarders ahead of you the right of way on a trail, since they may not know if you are behind them. And if you have to stop while on/in the middle of a run, move over to the side before stopping to avoid obstructing the way for those behind you and creating a safety hazard. Finally, remember to be aware of your surroundings when you’re near an active trail. The National Safety Council suggests that you “look both ways and uphill before crossing a trail, merging, or starting down a hill.”
- Know what you’re in for. Be sure to research a trail, including all of its obstacles and hazards, before skiing or snowboarding. Always take time to research the day’s weather conditions, too, and consider any issues with visibility or wind that may make the path more treacherous.
- Get proper instruction. If you’re a novice skier or snowboarder, be sure to receive training before descending the slopes for the first time. (Even for more experienced hobbyists, a refresher course can always be productive.) Some topics to cover include how to fall and get back up properly so you won’t hurt yourself; how to keep control of your equipment so you won’t jeopardize your own safety or that of others; what to do if you find yourself in a dangerous, weather-related situation on a trail; and more.
Does your hometown have a local sledding hill? A spot where kids and families from all over the area gather to celebrate the snow? For many people, sledding is tied to childhood memories, and many parents and grandparents can’t wait to share this classic winter pastime with the next generation.
Whether your sled of choice is a cafeteria tray or a cutting-edge toboggan, here are a few ways to make sure you’re sledding safely during the winter months:
- Always make sure young children have proper supervision. The National Safety Council reminds adults to make sure that they keep a close eye on children when they go sledding, especially for children ten years old or younger.
- Assess the area. Before sledding, be sure to inspect the area to make sure that it’s safe. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh encourages sledders to avoid areas with steep hills, cliffs, rocks, streets, driveways, icy surfaces, and areas with trees, walls, or cars. Be sure to inspect the slope for holes, bare spots, and snow bluffs, which could contain tree stumps, rocks, unstable or very uneven ground, or other hidden obstructions.
- Dress warmly. Make sure that all sledders are dressed warmly, in layers. Heavy boots and gloves may be especially important to help protect sledders’ hands and feet from “cuts, bruises, and frostbite,” according to the Children’s Hospital.
- Check your equipment. Always make sure your sled is in good condition, free of any sharp edges or cracks. You also may want to make sure sledders are decked out in proper safety equipment, including a helmet and knee/elbow pads.
- Practice proper technique. The National Safety Council reminds riders to “sit or lay on their back [at the] top of the sled with feet pointing downhill,” and “never sled headfirst.” Sledding headfirst can lead to severe head injuries. Before sledding, be sure to also review how sledders should dismount from a sled. It’s especially important to teach kids how to safely “roll off a sled that won’t stop,” notes the Children’s Hospital.
What’s Your Favorite Thing About Winter?
What’s your favorite thing to do in the winter months? Do you have any winter health and wellness tips that our friends and followers would love? Be sure to let us know in the comments, or by dropping us a line on Facebook or Twitter.
One other thing to keep in mind? A snow day can also be a great opportunity to take stock of everything—including your health and life insurance plans. If you have any questions or concerns about your portfolio, the Enrollment Specialists would be happy to help set you on the right path—no snowshoes required.