-10˚C and 15 cm of snow? No problem! We were made for this. As Canadians, we are known for our winters and even more so for our winter sports. That said, no matter how tough we think we are, it’s important to remember to take the necessary precautions and put safety first, especially when it comes to outdoor activities for our children.
Regardless of whether it’s tobogganing, skating or making snow angels, the most important thing to remember when heading outdoors in the winter is appropriate clothing. Staying warm and dry will make any activity much more enjoyable. Adults and children alike should dress in layers as this will allow for more flexibility and movement, in addition to providing extra warmth (or less warmth) as needed.
While there are a variety of different winter sports to choose from, here are some tips to stay safe while enjoying the snow.
“More than 5,600 Canadians are seriously injured every year from winter activities*”
- Make sure your sled or toboggan is in good working order – inspect for cracks, broken parts or sharp edges. If purchasing a new sled, opt for models that offer some steering control (avoid saucers, carpets and inner tubes as they can have a mind of their own!).
- Consider wearing a helmet when sledding, especially for younger sliders.
- Choose hills that are away from roads and parking lots, and slide paths that are free of hazards such as ice, holes, moguls, rocks, trees, fences and signs.
- Make sure to look for a hill that isn’t too steep and that slops gently with ample room at the bottom to allow for a complete stop.
- Only slide when the path in front of you is clear and move out of the way once at the bottom to avoid getting hit by other sleds. A good strategy is to slide down the middle of the hill and to climb up at the sides.
- Always slide during the day and on hills that are well lit.
- Don’t skate in ill-fitting or dull skates. Blisters aside, skates that aren’t properly sharpened or sized can increase the risk of falls and cause serious injury to the people wearing them, and to those around them.
- Use your head and always wear a helmet!
- If you’re considering skating on an outdoor rink make sure to check the thickness of the ice. Ice on ponds, rivers or canals needs to be at least 15 cm (6 in) thick before you walk on it. For groups, 20 cm (8 in) is recommended. Check to see if conditions are safe with your local municipality or town and always air on the side of caution.
- Practice falling. Beginners and skating superstars alike risk falling so it’s important to teach your children how to fall in a way that protects their limbs and most importantly their heads.
Skiing or Snowboarding:
- Make sure your equipment has been properly sized and adjusted and inspect your skis and bindings throughout the season.
- Be sure that you are wearing a properly fitting ski or snowboarding helmet if you are hitting the slopes
- At most ski clubs, there are hills designed for skiers and snowboarders with different levels of experience. Be honest with yourself when you consider your level of experience. It will not only keep you safe but everyone else as well. If you end up on a hill that you aren’t qualified to go down, move to the side, take off your skis or snowboard and walk the rest of the way down carefully.
- If you are going cross-country skiing, make sure you take well marked trails and that someone knows where you are going and when you are expected to return.
- Even in the winter sunscreen is still a must. The sun reflects off the snow and is often stronger than you think, even on cloudy days!
- Warm up and stretch before hitting the slopes. Just like with any type of exercises it’s important to get your muscles ready (and cool them down following) to help avoid injury.
- One of the great benefits of snowshoeing is the wide variety of trails you can explore, which is why it’s important to find the type of shoe that best fits the terrain you most want to explore. Shoes are typically broken down into three categories: flat, rolling and mountain.
- Since snowshoeing can often take you off-trail it’s important to carry a GPS, compass, map, and fully charged cell phone with you, in addition to letting people know where you’re headed. An extra battery pack for your cell phone will also give you the peace of mind that you’ll be able to keep in touch if you end up taking an unanticipated detour.
- Always travel with a small safety kit including a first aid kit, pocket knife, headlamp, compass, batteries, extra clothing, blanket, fire starting kit, guidebook and map. It may seem like a lot but you’ll be thankful for it if a problem occurs.
- Buddy up if you’re going off-trail into areas where you’ve never been before
- Always make sure to pack enough water and snacks to keep you hydrated and fueled.
What types of winter activities do you like doing with your family?