Winter Activity Safety Guide

We’re officially in one of the most dreaded winter weather months — February. Historically, this month is infamous for heavy storms, frozen roadways, and the risk of dangerous conditions. On the flip side, kids also get a break from school for February vacation and families can get some time off for winter activities.

However, all the fun of skiing, snowmobiling, skating and sledding doesn’t come without some risks. Before you head out for some family fun, brush up on these safety tips.

Sledding

  • Find gently sloping hills that are free of hidden hazards like rocks and other obstacles.
  • Steer clear of hills next to busy roads.
  • Make sure hills are covered with packed snow (not ice).
  • Use sturdy and safe equipment, with no sharp or jagged edges.
  • Check the weather before you go.
  • Teach children it’s better to sit up while riding downhill—lying flat increases the chance of head and abdominal injuries.
  • Roll off the sled if a collision with a tree or other large/hard object is imminent.
  • Never ride on a sled that is being pulled by a car, truck, or snowmobile.

Snowmobiling 

  • Check the weather and trail conditions before you go.
  • Note that it is recommended that children younger than 6 not ride a snowmobile, and youth younger than 16 should use extreme caution if driving one.
  • All snowmobile drivers and passengers should wear helmets designed for high-speed motor sports.
  • Don’t drink alcohol and ride.
  • Maintain speed limits — speed is a factor in many accidents particularly during low visibility.
  • Ride with someone on another snowmobile so you have a ride if you encounter a problem.

Ice Skating

  • Skate only in posted or approved areas.
  • Learn how to stop and how to fall safely.
  • Skate in the direction of the other skaters.
  • Watch the skating surface for cracks, holes, and other debris.

Skiing and Snowboarding

  • Wear a helmet.
  • If it’s been awhile since you last skied, try an easier trail before the more advanced ones.
  • Know your limits and abide by them.
  • Wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Be alert to the movement of others around you and stay in control.
  • Stop in a safe place if you need to.
  • Riding the ski lift, as well as getting on to and off of it, can be dangerous, so stay alert and avoid horseplay.

Ice Fishing

  • Remember that new ice is usually stronger than old ice.
  • Beware of moving water, especially around inlets and outlets.
  • Before you leave, tell someone your plans — where you are going and what time you plan to return; notify them if plans change.
  • Never go out on the ice alone.
  • Check with local experts (tackle shops or equipment rentals) to find out the conditions.
  • Carry at least one full set of dry clothing in a waterproof bag or container.
  • Carry a pair of ice picks and a throw rope.
  • Use a sled to carry your fishing gear rather than a backpack or duffel bag. It distributes the weight over a greater surface area of the ice.
  • When in doubt, don’t go.
  • Don’t wear seat belts when driving on ice because they make it difficult to exit a vehicle quickly, and keeping the door slightly ajar while traveling will help you exit the vehicle quickly in an emergency.
  • Ice thickness reminders:
    • 2″ or less — Don’t go.
    • 4″— Fish on foot
    • 5″ — ATV acceptable
    • 8″ to 12″ — Safe for a car
    • 12″ to 15″ —Safe for a truck

Staying Warm and Avoiding Frostbite

  • Dress warmly in several layers of clothing—wear boots, gloves, or mittens and a hat.
  • Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play, and make sure children go into a warm place periodically to warm up.
  • Limit time outside for infants as they lose heat quicker than others.
  • Certain beverages (those that contain caffeine and alcohol) and medications can make you more sensitive to the cold.
  • Use the “buddy system” to monitor your physical reaction to the cold if you are going to be outdoors for an extended period of time.

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