Winter sports safety

Although human-tree collisions can hurt you, human-human collisions are a big cause of major injuries as well, especially at high speeds. Skiers should never stop in the middle of a slope, only at the edge. Always keep an eye out for other skiers who can seem to appear out of nowhere. Never ski alone or go onto blocked-off areas, which usually mean unsafe slopes. Goggles will protect your eyes from branches, ice and bright sun.

Snowboarders should take a lesson, too, if they have never done it before. Many of the ski safety rules apply to snowboarding, too, like watching for others on the slopes. Since wrist fractures are common with this sport, wrist guards are in order. Elbow pads and kneepads are a good idea, too, or even padded pants.

Like snow, ice can provide lots of winter fun, too. Skating, ice hockey and ice fishing are ways young and old can enjoy the cold months. But there are dangers. Most obvious is the risk of thin ice. Skaters should never go out alone and only on lakes or ponds approved for skating. After a few days of milder weather, ice can weaken. Breaks in ice can appear suddenly and falling in can cause a quick hypothermia that can disable the strongest swimmer. Clear blue ice is the strongest, with opaque white ice only half as strong. Gray ice is the weakest, thinnest ice. If someone falls in, rescue him or her from shore if possible, extending a pole or long branch.

Also, don’t eat gum or candy while skating in case you fall and don’t throw gum or garbage onto the ice. Skate with the crowd, not in the opposite direction, to avoid collisions. Wear snug, well-fitting skates and keep blades sharp — double-bladed skates are better for the youngest skaters — and wear wrist guards. Ice fishing has the additional risk of frostbite because participants are sitting still rather than moving.

Just because the trails are covered with snow now doesn’t mean you have to stay away if you like to get out there and explore. And snowy landscapes and woods have a stark, serene beauty that they lack in milder seasons. Hiking, running, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are all lovely ways to enjoy a winter day, but not without dangers.

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