Since this is National Ski Safety Awareness Week, let me see if I can glide right through a few safety tips with you on ski and snowboard safety.

More than 20,000 children each year are treated for ski and snowboard injuries with the most severe injuries occurring in teens and young adults who typically take more risks on the slopes. That being said, if you want to reduce your child’s risk of becoming a ski injury statistic, try the following:

  1. Proper equipment is critical.  Be sure to buy or rent skis or snowboards that are appropriate for your child’s skiing ability. The larger the ski or snowboard, the faster it goes and the harder it is to control.  Have skis, bindings poles and boots fitted by a trained professional at a ski shop.
  2. Don’t allow  your child to use hand-me-down equipment that is too big for them even though they will eventually grow into this equipment..
  3. Proper equipment also includes a properly fitted helmet.  In fact more than 50% of head injuries in children can be prevented on the slopes yearly if ski helmets are worn. Of course wearing one does not mean a child should ski faster or recklessly.  What if your child will not wear one? The best way to get your children to wear one is for parents to wear one as well.  If your kids think it’s not cool, have them customize it with stickers to make it even cooler. Please remember: bike helmets are not a substitute for a ski helmet.
  4. If you or your child are new to a winter sport, take at least one lesson, and in your child’s case consider taking lessons from a certified instructor.  A professional instructor will not only teach your child  how to ski or snowboard but will  check the fit of the equipment and even teach your child how to get on and off the lifts.
  5. In going down hills remind your children, whether they are with you or not, to stop only in places where theycan be seen and are not blocking a trail.
  6. If your  child is getting onto a trail, make sure he or she knows to give those  coming down past them the right of way.
  7. Older children who know how to ski should always ski with a friend or parent no matter how good they think they are.
  8. Don’t forget to dress your child in layers to deal with the changes in temperature and use sun protection even on cloudy days.  Eye protection with goggles that filter out the sun is  also essential.

Hopefully, tips like this will slide down easily the next time you are concerned about ski or snowboard safety.

 Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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