Winter sports are lots of fun — just ask any kid who’s just finished sledding to the bottom of a giant hill. But when you’re sitting on that sled or snow tube, getting ready to ski, snowboard, snowmobile, or go skating on the neighborhood pond, you have to know how to be safe. Otherwise, you could get injured and be stuck inside while everyone else is having fun.
Here’s our favorite list of winter sports activities to enjoy during the winter holidays in Wisconsin: snow sledding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, snow skiing, ice skating, snow skating or snowboarding, cross country skiing and even snow shoeing!
No matter which winter sport you choose, staying warm is important.
The right clothing and equipment will help you do that. Dressing in layers is smart, but some of the newer fabrics for cold weather give you the warmth of layers without all the bulk. Wearing a layer of comfortable, but thin, pants underneath snow pants is a good idea for warmth and insulation. Thick boot socks are important to keep your feet extra warm and waterproof boots to keep them dry. All appendages should be covered, so don’t forget gloves or mittens, a well-fitted warm hat and a good winter coat.
Staying warm isn’t just about feeling comfortable. Your body needs to stay warm to work properly. And when your body is at the right temperature, it won’t need to spend as much energy getting warm. That will give you maximum energy for winter fun. It also means you can stay outside longer without worrying about frostbite.
THE RIGHT GEAR
Snow sledding down a hill at what feels like a million miles an hour can be great fun- as long as you’re sledding safely. When you grab your sled, make sure it’s sturdy and that it’s one you can really steer. The handholds should be easy to grab, and the seat of the sled should be padded.
Never use homemade sleds like garbage-can lids, plastic bags, or pool floats- these can be dangerous and may cause you to lose control. Also, never use a sled that has any sharp, jagged edges or broken parts. Tighten any loose screws and check for cracks in the plastic of the sled you’ll be using to be sure you have a safe ride!
Before you hit the slopes to ski or snowboard, make sure you have the right equipment — and that it fits you right. Many kids have problems because the equipment they use is too big for them. It may have belonged to an older brother or sister and they are hoping that they can “grow into it.” Equipment that is too big will make it hard for you to keep control.
The same goes for boots and bindings — make sure these are the right size for your feet before getting on the slopes. Ski boots designed just for kids are a good bet because they are more flexible than boots for adults, and they have buckles that are easier to manage. Helmets are a must for skiing and snowboarding. Goggles will protect your eyes from bright sunlight and objects that could get in the way and poke you in the eye (like tree branches). Just like with inline skating, snowboarders need knee pads and elbow pads. Some snowboarding beginners wear specially padded pants to cushion their falls!
Remember, sunlight reflects off all that bright white snow and ice and back onto your face, so cover up with sunscreen, (minimum 15SPF) and wear lip balm that contains sunscreen (even when it’s cloudy). When sledding, it’s especially important to wear gloves or mittens and boots because in addition to keeping you warm, they can help prevent injuries to your hands and feet. Wearing a bike helmet is also a good habit to get into — doctors say it’s a great way to protect your head while enjoying winter sports.
SLEDDING SAFETY TIPS
When you’re picking your sledding spot, it’s best to have an adult check it first to make sure it’s OK. Hills designated for sledding and snow tubing in Wisconsin are always a good bet- they can be safer than private areas like backyards. (Having an adult around while everyone is sledding is a good idea, too.)
Make sure the hill isn’t too steep and that it’s covered with packed snow, not ice. The hill must not end anywhere near cars on the road. This is important. If it’s a new hill you’re trying out and you’ve never been to the bottom, you might want to walk it first just to be sure. Also, look for obstacles like trees, bushes, and rocks that are covered in snow. Sled only in daylight or in well-lit areas.
If you’re snow sledding with a friend, make sure that you don’t go over the weight limit – look at the label on the sled for the number of pounds it will hold. If everybody has his or her own sled and is taking turns sledding down the hill, make sure the person sledding before you is well out of the way before you take off. And whether you’re on the sled by yourself or with pals, you always want to be sitting up, not lying down. Lying flat puts your body at greater risk for injuries if you lose control and flip or fall out. Finally, Never ride on a sled or snow tube that’s being pulled by a car, truck, or snowmobile.
For Parents: Remember the Buddy System! If your child just can’t wait for his buddies before he plunges into the snow, make sure you are either able to see him playing from the window or yard, or simply go along yourself!
Sledding and snow tubing are winter sports activites that can be quite enjoyable even when alone, however the buddy system is much safer. Someone to watch for cars if the hill is near a street, to help if an injury occurs, or to go get help if necessary. And just to be on the safe side make sure your child has some form of identification. This is not necessarily a paranoid parent’s addition to a sledding checklist; it is a wise and “just in case” item that you will not appreciate until there’s an accident.
ICE SKATING SAFETY TIPS
In places where it gets really cold, you might be able to skate outdoors on frozen ponds and lakes. But these spots must be approved for skating. You’ll know because they’ll be marked by one or more signs from the police or recreation department saying that skating is OK. If the safe area is blocked off, be sure to stay within that area. Never try skating on ice that hasn’t been approved. Ice that looks and seems strong may not be able to hold a kid’s weight. And just like with swimming, never skate alone.
Once you have a safe skating spot, you need safe skates. Ice skates need to fit you properly. Don’t try to fit into too small skates, or put on lots of socks to fit into an older brother’s pair. Skates should be snug but not too tight, laced up to the top.
If you play ice hockey, take a tip from the pros: don’t step out onto the ice without all the proper gear. This means padding, and most important, the right ice-hockey helmet- not a football or bike helmet. When you’re out skating, skate in the same direction as the rest of the crowd. Don’t dart across the ice, you might smack into someone who doesn’t have time to get out of the way. The same goes for trying out new skating moves, be sure to watch where you’re going and make sure that you have lots of room.
Finally, throw out any gum or candy you have in your mouth before going onto the ice — you don’t want to choke on it, or have it fall out of your mouth onto the ice and cause someone to trip.
If you’re inexperienced it’s a good idea to take at least one skiing or snowboarding lesson before you take off. This can keep you from getting frustrated or hurt before you have a chance to enjoy this new sport. First thing to learn from your instructor is how to stop!
Even after a lesson, it’s good to have an adult nearby in case you need help. Grownups can help you choose the right trails and hills. If you’re in doubt, it’s always safer to start with easier slopes and move on to harder ones later. And watch out for others to avoid collisions!
Have FUN this winter season & be sure to practice winter sports safety!
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