There is no sight quite like fresh powder on a Vermont mountain. In fact, Vermont is often ranked among the top ski destinations in the United States with approximately 4 million visits a season to its various resorts in a typical year. Of course, this is not a typical year. Before you zip up your coat to hit the slopes, take a minute to review our health and safety tips.

Skiing and COVID-19

While it’s more important than ever to get outside and be active, winter activities during the COVID-19 pandemic present a new set of challenges and considerations. Before you pack the car to head out to the mountain, check the website of the ski area you are visiting for their health and safety policies around COVID-19. Keep in mind that some resorts may need to limit the number of skiers and riders allowed on the mountain. Even if you live locally, plan ahead by calling ahead.  

Read more: Ski Vermont Trip Planning and COVID-19

If you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, postpone the ski trip until after you have quarantined or tested negative. For the health and safety of yourself and other riders, follow masking and physical distancing guidelines when you are inside the lodge as well as outside on the slopes.

Get in Shape, Stay Hydrated

Safe skiing starts long before you even reach the mountain. Keeping in shape with a regular exercise routine can reduce the risk of fatigue and fatigue-related injuries. Plus, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic drinks that can dehydrate you or negatively impact your balance and reaction.

Protect Your Head at All Times

According to the National Ski Areas Association, helmet usage by skiers and snowboarders has increased every year for the last 18 years. Approximately 86 percent of people hitting the slopes in the United States wear a helmet. Our advice: follow the crowd and make sure you ride P.H.A.T. (Protect your Head at All Times).

Learn more: Helmet Safety and the PHAT Program

At the start of the season, check your helmet for fit, damage and age. Helmets can lose some of their ability to protect your head as they get older or are exposed to extreme conditions. Check with the manufacturer for possible expiration dates or use the recommended 5-year guideline for when it’s time to pick out a new helmet. When purchasing a new helmet or other equipment, ask for expert advice on fit as improperly fitted or used equipment can cause serious injuries.

Know Your Limits

Remember, helmets are an important tool to help protect your head, but practicing safe skiing habits is even more important. Follow the guidelines of the resort and avoid slopes that are more difficult than your skill level can handle as it can put you and other riders in harm’s way.

If you are new to skiing or snowboarding, no matter your age, sign up for a class. Instructors can teach you not only the basics for skiing and snowboarding, but the rules on how to use the slopes and trails.

Be Prepared

Skis are incredibly sharp and can slice through winter wear and muscles with surprising ease, resulting in life-threatening bleeding. When every minute counts, knowing the principles of Stop the Bleed can help save a life on the mountain. Stop the Bleed is a national campaign to teach individuals the proper techniques to control life-threatening bleeding after an injury. Jonathan, featured in the video above, is a local skier and knows firsthand how important Stop the Bleed training is for saving a life. His experience launched a huge movement in the ski community to not only get people trained on how to stop the bleed, but also to make the materials readily available.

With these safety tips and a decent dump of fresh powder, you’re ready to hit the mountains and safely enjoy everything a Vermont winter has to offer. Have fun!

Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and UVM Children’s Hospital.

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