Cold weather doesn’t mean you can’t stay active. Winter provides myriad fun family activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and sledding. Unfortunately, some of these activities can quickly become unsafe if you don’t know how to avoid common pitfalls such as slips, falls, hypothermia, frostbite, and other injuries. Today, we’ll explore how to stay safe while outdoors in winter so you can focus on fun rather than mishaps and tragedies.
This may seem like the most common-sense way to stay safe but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. People often don’t wear enough clothing because they overestimate the outdoor temperature, and underestimate the time they’ll be outside or how long they’ll be standing still during winter activities.
Do not rely on a rising body temperature to keep you warm. Strenuous outdoor exercise can actually be more dangerous during winter because sweat that dries on your body will leave you colder than usual. Always make sure you have a well-lined overcoat, sturdy gloves, and a hat or scarf. Ideally, a winter coat should have a thin, moisture-wicking inner layer and middle and outer layers of wool, down, or synthetic insulation. For the coldest days, you should wear a coat with an outer layer of nylon, Gore-Tex, or other windproof materials. Remove outer layers while exercising to avoid overheating.
Check the Weather
Cold weather is exhilarating but can turn dangerous quickly. Take extra precautions before going outside if the temperature is below freezing, or above freezing but with heavy rain or snow in the forecast. Children should have limited time outside on even the mildest of freezing or below-freezing days, and snow play should be limited to 30 minutes at a time or less for young children. In addition, keep the wind chill factor in mind. The thermometer can tell you the air temperature, but the wind chill factor will tell you how cold it feels. If it’s going to feel like a sub-freezing day, it may be best to stay inside.
Your skin and mouth dry out more quickly and easily during winter, so be sure you take plenty of water to any strenuous outdoor activity. This also goes for indoor exercise – even at the gym or on an indoor court, winter makes it easier to get dehydrated because the heat will be turned up inside. If you’ll be outside for a long time, use Thermoses of hot drinks such as tea, decaf coffee, or cocoa. Come in from the cold frequently; part of the fun of skiing and snowboarding is relaxing in the lodge.
Be Mindful of Ice
Ice skating on a real pond or lake can produce some of the best memories you’ll ever have – if you are careful. Ice should be at least six inches thick before you walk on it, and at least 20 inches thick for large groups. Test different areas of the pond, lake, or canal for thickness. The ice’s color will let you know how safe it is. Clear blue ice is the safest, and white ice is half as strong as blue ice. Stay away from gray ice, as it’s the most likely to break.