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Ice Skaters at Sunset

Looking back on the runny noses, turquoise snowsuits and hot cocoa afternoons of winters past gives me the warm and fuzzies every time. I’m reminded of the thrill of pure exertion- what it feels like to drag your sled up the big hill 40-plus times or spend hours skating in wide, endless circles. But winter sports require a bit more than just childlike endurance. Each one has its own safety precautions—and the best way to ensure everyone has fun is to get those out of the way first. A few simple tips can help.

Pair Up
It’s Safety 101, but the buddy system rule could be one of winter sports’ most overlooked. When my mom broke her knee skating on a local pond and had to hike the hill home on one leg, I’m sure she wished she had a buddy. (Feel free to use this true story to reinforce the importance of the buddy system!)

Gear Up
Each winter sport demands the appropriate gear. Once you establish how you’ll deal with warmth and weather exposure (hint: layers), focus on sport-specific equipment, a huge factor in safety. Think about looking up fit guides for skates and ski bindings. It’s even better if you can have these items professionally fitted. The same goes for helmets (skiing, hockey, even sledding), goggles and boots. One sport you’ll probably be able to outfit and size up on your own: snowshoeing.

Warm Up
In reference to safety, "warm up" can mean a few things. It’s important to take breaks to warm your body, to layer clothing and to pay attention to how you’re feeling throughout the day. (This is especially true for children as they lose body heat more quickly.) It’s also important to warm up and stretch, just as you would before any athletic activity. Muscles are less elastic in the cold, so we're more prone to injury. Staying conditioned in the off season is another great way to prevent a ski slope fiasco.

Drink Up
When we're hot and sweaty, our bodies scream for hydration. When we're cold, but exerting ourselves, the same is true. We just might not hear the call. Keep a filtered water bottle like bobble on hand or nearby and be sure to take breaks to sip.

What Else?
Some seemingly small things can make a world of difference in your winter sport enjoyment. Don’t let these little safety tips fall by the mountainside: Spit up: Don’t chew gum. Cover up: Always wear sunscreen. Check up: If you haven’t had one since two winters ago, a physical exam is always a good idea. We want to hear your best tips: How do you keep the season safe, while still having fun?

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