Planning a winter ski or snowboarding holiday? Don’t miss out on the fun – avoid injury and expensive medical costs by following our checklist.
Make sure your insurance covers the activities you want to do. Medical costs can be very expensive if you get injured: for example, it could cost up to £40,000 to be treated for a fractured femur in the United States, or £8,000 to treat a knee injury in Austria*. In addition to this, many policies don’t cover damage of rental equipment or skiing off piste without a guide. So it’s worth checking your policy!
*Figures include medical fees and repatriation. Source: Europ Assistance
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
Travelling in Europe? It’s essential that you take a valid EHIC with you. If you have an accident or suddenly become ill you’ll receive the necessary state-provided medical healthcare at reduced cost, or sometimes free. The EHIC is valid in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. But you still need to take out travel insurance, as an EHIC won’t cover all your medical costs, private treatment or repatriation to the UK. Many travel insurance policies only provide full cover if you also have an EHIC. Apply for your free EHIC now at: www.ehic.org.uk
Be at your peak
Get fit so you can enjoy your holiday more; if you’re not physically prepared you’re more likely to injure yourself and you won’t get the most out of your skiing or snowboarding.
Also, be aware that you are exerting considerable energy at high altitudes and it’s unlikely you’ll be fully acclimatised, even at the end of your holiday. The highest skiable altitude in many resorts is up to two miles above sea level, so the air pressure and density is far lower than your body is used to. This can lead to your body tiring faster than usual because it can’t absorb as much oxygen. The air is also much dryer than it is at, or near, sea level. It’s important to drink a lot of liquids (not alcohol!) to maintain your hydration levels. Depending on your size, weight and the level of exertion, you will need between four and six litres of water a day – a gallon or more.
Know your limits
Drinking alcohol on the slopes invalidates some insurance policies and can affect you more quickly at high altitudes. It also affects your resistance to, and awareness of, the cold which can put you in danger. In practical terms it also affects your judgement, co-ordination and reaction times; in other words, your skiing will deteriorate after you’ve been drinking.
Use of helmets
Wearing a helmet is a personal choice and more and more people are choosing to wear them. In some resorts it is a legal requirement for children to wear helmets. Before you travel you should ensure that you are aware of the legal requirements for the country you are visiting. For more information visit: www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandavice
The sun is much stronger at altitude and appropriate strength sun cream should be worn. When it comes to eye protection there are two main options; ski goggles or sunglasses, each has their own benefits and disadvantages. Always ensure goggles or glasses offer 100% UV protection. More information can be found at: www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandavice
Choosing the right pistes
It is important to be aware of how pistes are classified to indicate their difficulty. This will make sure you don’t overstretch yourself and get into a tricky situation. It is useful to note that there can be local and national variations in signs, rules and regulations. When you arrive in a resort, you should obtain and study the piste/trail map of the area. Do be aware that piste classifications vary in different ski resorts and countries. Piste conditions change during the day as the sun moves and warms up the snow especially later in the season. What was a cruising blue run mid morning, could be difficult, and more like a hard red by 4pm. Note that this also works in reverse.