Every year families hit the slopes to enjoy the popular winter sport of skiing. And every year, children lose their lives in ski accidents, often times for reasons or disasters that could have been prevented with a few simple safety precautions. Around one-third of all ski-related injuries involve children under the age of 16. The good news is that by following a few simple ski safety guidelines for kids, you can reduce the risk of injury and keep your family safe on the slope.
The importance of having children wear ski helmets
A child on ski’s can routinely hit speeds of 20-30 m.p.h. or more, and advanced skiers (whether these be your child or others around them) can sometimes reach speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour. A child who hits a tree or another skier even at the lower speeds can suffer a serious head injury. A child’s brain is their most vulnerable organ, and numerous kids have been killed or left in a comatose state with permanent brain damage after suffering such accidents without a helmet.
A helmet absorbs much of the acute impact from a blow to the head, which can make an otherwise deadly or debilitating blow survivable. When a child is wearing a helmet, it can make all the difference. Shortly before Christmas in December 2009, a 6-year-old girl WAS wearing a helmet during a ski accident when she slid into a tree. Although it remained a vicious accident, Dr. Michael McGonigal of Regions Hospital in Minnesota says there’s no doubt wearing a helmet saved this little girl’s life. (USA Today, 12-16-09, p. 8A) Much as it is with the examples we gave about the importance of swim lessons, having your child wear a helmet is frequently THE SINGLE FACTOR that determines life versus death in an accident. We hope you’ll choose life.
There are specialty helmets you can buy designed specifically for skiing, but your child’s bike helmet should offer similar protection, so there’s no need to purchase something new. Just make sure that the fit remains snug and adjusted properly if you put the helmet on over a thin stalking cap. Anything heavy should be worn over the helmet.
Child safety on the ski lift
- Whenever possible, sit children next to an adult. If there are 3 or more on the lift chair with 2 kids and an adult, have the adult sit in the middle. This way, an adult can grab a child who starts to slip off the lift. Every year children fall from ski lifts. Some of them do not survive.
- Have children keep their mittens on and don’t let them play with other items on the lift, and use the wrist straps on your kids’ ski poles, since a child who drops an item may fall out when trying to reach for it. This is one of the primary causes of children falling from the ski lift.
Ski safety rules for kids
- Have children wear tinted goggles when skiing. Not only will it reduce the glare of the sun’s rays as reflected against the snow, but it will save their eyes from other injuries. Whether it’s catching a ski pole to the face or sliding into the branches of a tree, eye injuries are one of the most common accidents while skiing.
- Keep children skiing on paths that are appropriate for their skill level. Don’t try to push them onto slopes that are too hard. Not only does it increase their chance of injuring themselves, it puts them on the slope with much more advanced skiers, many of whom are not looking out for children while skiing much faster and more aggressively than your child can.
- Instruct children not to try to ski out of bounds or weave in and out through trees. There are several problems with such behavior: A) They might hit a tree, B) Skiing through an opening could put them on another slope that is either too hard for them or which gets them lost, C) Areas off the ski path and amidst the trees often contain areas where packed snow gives way to 6 feet or more of soft powder. They can’t see the terrain underneath, and it contains sink areas that could swallow your child up to their neck. D) Skiing significantly out of bounds can potentially put them in avalanche-prone territory.
- Before you start, designate a prearranged spot to meet in case you get separated or children get lost. Point out the uniforms of ski patrol, and let them know that this is who they go to if they need help.
- As with all winter sports, emphasize how important it is to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for other skiers around you.
- Never pull children on skis with a car.