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Staying well on a cold weather holiday

Aleney de Winter

When planning your next ski holiday, here or overseas, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Young trio throwing snow balls at each other laughing
Young trio throwing snow balls at each other laughing

Dreaming of making fresh tracks in Thredbo, ploughing through powder in Japan or tackling the mighty mountains of America?  Before you strap in to your ski or snowboard boots, it's important to remember that there are inherent risks involved on a snow holiday.  

To stay healthy and make the most of your time on the slopes, it's crucial to take steps to avoid injuries that could see your holiday taking an unwanted detour to the emergency room.  

To help ensure that you spend less time recovering and more time enjoying the slopes, we're sharing our top tips to help you stay safe and warm. 

Get in shape  

To prepare for your winter escape, it's a good idea to follow a regular fitness program with plenty of lunges and squats before you go to help build endurance and strengthen muscles, which can reduce the risk of injury. A basic layer of physical conditioning will better equip you to tackle the slopes. Checking in with a physio or pilates instructor for some guidance with exercises may also help. 

Bend and stretch  

Warming up before skiing can help prevent injuries. Stretching, doing some light exercise, doing squats and some balance exercises can help you prepare for the physical demands of skiing.  

Get the right gear  

If you can't afford properly fitted, quality equipment from the experts, hire it, as incorrectly fitted gear can cause injury. The staff at your resort’s hire centre are experts at fitting boots, bindings and skis. 

Stay warm on the slopes 

Your insulating layers are the most important to consider, so a good set of thermals is a must to help protect against the cold. Wool or manufactured fibres such as polypropylene and fibre pile are effective. Cotton undergarments perform poorly in cold and wet conditions. 

Layer up  

Alpine weather is highly unpredictable. What may start as a blue-sky day can end in blizzard conditions, which means placing function ahead of fashion. Layer up in water repellent, slide-resistant gear that you can adjust as needed throughout the day. Off the slopes, wear warm accessories like beanies, scarves and gloves to keep warm. A top tip is to pack mittens instead of gloves for extremely cold days as your fingers warm each other up and you can carry hand warmers in them. 

Protect your head 

Helmets are an absolute must to protect against head injury. Make sure your helmet is properly fitted and that you are wearing it correctly. For maximum protection, it needs to be positioned low enough in front to protect your forehead, and not be too tight or too loose.   

Be sun smart 

The sun can be just as damaging to your skin in the winter as it is in the summer, especially when you're up in the mountains as fresh snow reflects even more UV radiation than water. Apply sunscreen to any exposed skin before hitting the slopes, and don’t forget lip balm. 

Don’t leave home without considering insurance   

Snow sports may be a heap of fun, but swooshing down a steep, snowy slope in Whistler, St Anton or Niseko does come with an undeniable side of risk. NIB Travel Insurance Snow Sports Cover Option can offer cover for skiing and snowboarding, cross-country and back-country skiing and heli-skiing. And because injuries don’t only happen on boards and skis, tobogganing and snowmobiling are also covered.  

Learn from a pro 

A good ski school is the key to a successful and safe ski holiday. Beginners should always invest in proper instruction as learning proper skiing techniques for turning, stopping, and controlling your speed can help you avoid accidents and injuries. Even if you’ve skied before, it doesn’t hurt to do a refresher at the start of a new season. 

Bring a buddy  

No matter how experienced you are on the snow, skiers and snowboarders need to stick together, especially when skiing in glades, chutes and in the backcountry, as an injured skier can only be assisted if someone is there to help. It also pays to know the phone number of ski patrol at the resort you are at – you never know when you might need them. 

a man and woman in snow gear posing for a selfie pulling funny faces

Slope smarts  

Be aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye out for other skiers, snowboarders, and obstacles on the slopes. Give skiers in front of you the right of way and if you need to stop do it on the side of a run, never the middle unless you’re prepared to impersonate a jumping ramp. If merging, always give way to skiers and snowboarders coming from above you. 

Take a break  

Winter sports are physically demanding, and while it can be tempting to squeeze in as many runs as you can, it's important to take breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. Use your breaks to grab a snack, drink some water, and rest your muscles. 

Eat right  

Skiing burns a lot of calories, so it's important to fuel your body with healthy, nutritious food. Don’t skip meals when you’re on the slopes. Aim for a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Be sure to pack your pockets with a couple of energy snacks to keep you going. 

Drink up  

It's easy to become dehydrated when you're skiing, as studies indicate cold exposure can reduce thirst by as much as 40 percent. But it is especially important to keep fluid up at higher elevations where the air is drier, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you are at a reasonably high elevation, ask the hotel if they have humidifiers, as they really help combat the dry air. 

Sleep well  

Skiing and snowboarding can be physically exhausting, so make sure you get plenty of rest each night. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule and avoid staying up late or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, as this can disrupt your sleep and leave you dangerously wobbly for another day on the slopes. 

The above features and benefits are a summary of cover only. Cover is subject to the full terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions outlined in the Product Disclosure Statement.   

Travelling soon? Consider nib Travel Insurance and get a quote 

To learn more about what’s covered, see nib travel insurance. Nib Health insurance members get a 10% discount off their travel insurance.* 

nib Travel Insurance Distribution Pty Limited, ABN 40 129 262 175, AR 336467 is an authorised representative of nib Travel Services (Australia) Pty Ltd (nib), ABN 81 115 932 173, AFSL 308461 and act as nib's agent and not as your agent. This is general advice only. Before you buy, you should consider your needs, the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), Financial Services Guide (FSG) and Target Market Determination (TMD) available from us. This insurance is underwritten by Pacific International Insurance Pty Ltd, ABN 83 169 311 193. 

*The discount applies to the total nib travel insurance premium and is for members that currently hold an Australian health insurance product, an Overseas Student Health Cover product or an Overseas Visitors Health Cover product with nib. Discounts do not apply to the rate of GST and stamp duty or any changes you make to the policy. nib has the discretion to withdraw or amend this discount offer at any time. This discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or discount. 

A portrait of Aleney de Winter smiling at the camera

Aleney de Winter

An award-winning writer and photographer with an unquenchable inclination to wander and a passion for the world of wellness, Aleney de Winter was a curious teen with an adventurous spirit when she first set off to explore. Three decades on and a specialist travel, food, parenting and wellness writer, the only thing she loves more than new adventures is her equally itchy-footed kids