#SkiSafe - preparing for winter sports abroad
Travel advice and information for British people going on winter sports holidays abroad, including things to do before you go and staying safe in-resort.
If you’re planning a winter ski or snowboard holiday abroad, follow our travel advice and information on pre-departure preparation and staying safe on the snow.
#SkiSafe checklists you can download
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Make sure your insurance covers the activities you want to do. Medical costs and returning to the UK unexpectedly can be very expensive. Many insurance policies will not cover damage to rental equipment or skiing off-piste without a guide, and many policies require you to wear a helmet at all times. Check your policy before you go!
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
Travelling in Europe? It’s essential that you have a valid EHIC. If you have an accident or become ill it will allow you to receive state-provided medical healthcare at the same rate as a citizen of that country.
Check your EHIC is still valid - it needs renewing every 5 years, so if it has expired apply for a new card before you travel. But you still need to take out travel insurance, as an EHIC won’t cover all your medical costs, private treatment or return to the UK. Some insurers now insist that you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.
Health and equipment
Be at your peak
Get fit so you can enjoy your holiday; if you’re not physically prepared you’re more likely to injure yourself. Warm up and do stretches before and after any activities.
Be drink aware - know your limits
Alcohol affects your resistance and awareness of the cold, and also impairs your judgment, co-ordination and reaction time. Drinking alcohol at altitude will affect you more quickly and your insurance cover may not be valid if you injure yourself or others whilst intoxicated.
Use of helmets
Wearing a helmet is a personal choice but more and more people are choosing to wear them. In some resorts it is a legal requirement for children to wear helmets. Many insurance policies require you to wear a helmet on the slopes regardless of the local legal requirements.
Goggles and sun protection
The sun is much stronger at altitude so wear appropriate-strength sun cream. When it comes to eye protection there are two main options: goggles or sunglasses. Always ensure goggles or glasses offer 100% UV protection.
Visit Ski Club GB’s website for more information on winter sports health and equipment.
Safety on the snow
Choose the right route and 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. Know your limits and don’t attempt slopes beyond your level of ability.
Green routes are the easiest, followed by Blue then Red and then Black. Itineraries are runs marked on the piste map but they are not groomed or patrolled and are therefore for the more experienced skiers. Be aware that piste classifications vary in different ski resorts and countries.
Piste conditions change during the day; what was a cruising blue run mid-morning could be difficult, and more like a challenging red run by 4pm. Note that this also works in reverse, and sometimes a quiet red run at the end of the day maybe a lot easier than an icy and crowded blue.
Assisting in the case of an accident
Secure the accident area - protect with crossed skis or planted snowboard well above the injured person. If necessary post someone to give warning.
Report to a ‘pisteur’ or lift operator and alert the rescue service:
- place of accident (piste name and nearest piste marker)
- number of people injured
- type of injury
- if serious report to the police as soon as possible
Off-piste skiing and snowboarding has become more popular in recent years with the attraction of heading off the marked runs and seeking out fresh powder. But you should not head off-piste without being fully prepared. For example, you should make sure you take and are able to use competently the appropriate equipment - an avalanche transceiver, a probe pole and a shovel.
Many insurance policies won’t cover you for damage to rental equipment or skiing off-piste without a guide. So make sure you check your policy. Details of equipment required and courses can be found on Ski Club GB’s website
Be avalanche aware
Snow reports, weather forecasts and avalanche risk levels are available in-resort at the lift stations. Snow and weather reports and information on avalanches are on Ski Club GB’s website
Code of conduct
For all mountain users, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has ten rules for skiers and snowboarders to help everyone stay safe on the slopes. They must be followed at all times.
Published: 3 December 2015
Updated: 18 November 2016
- Updated checklists for 2016-17 winter season
- First published.