• In order to enjoy your luxury ski holiday to the optimum, you should ensure that you and your party are physically prepared for the slopes. Starting a fitness programme and getting your muscles used to stretching at least eight weeks in advance of your holiday will increase your fitness level so that you can enjoy the snow and fresh air to the maximum − it may also help to prevent injuries.
• Ensure that your travel insurance covers you for the winter sports that you want to do. Double check your insurance policy as many don’t cover off-piste skiing, heli-skiing, tubing, tobogganing, skidooing, and other activities that are considered to pose increased risk. Some insurers require you to wear a helmet at all times.
• If you’re travelling to Europe, ensure that you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Should you be involved in an accident or suddenly become ill, an EHIC may entitle you to the necessary state-provided medical healthcare at reduced cost, or sometimes free, when in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. EHICs won’t cover all your medical costs, private treatment or repatriation to the UK, so ensure that you also take out adequate travel insurance. Many travel insurance policies only provide full cover if you also have an EHIC. EHICS can be obtained and renewed at www.ehic.org.uk.
What To Wear And Take On The Piste • It is advisable to wear a base layer when you are on the piste and out in resort.
• Keep warm. Always ensure you have a hat and gloves. You should also wear an appropriate ski jacket and salopettes.
• Some ski jackets are fitted with an avalanche finder, check to see if you have a RECCO system sewed into the lining.
• It is advisable to wear a helmet and more and more people are doing so. In some resorts it is a legal requirement for children to wear a helmet (more information can be found at www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandadvice). If you or any of your party do not own a helmet, hire one from a reputable supplier in resort.
• Always take a fully charged mobile phone and money with you on the mountain.
• The sun is much stronger at altitude and appropriate strength sun cream should be worn, lip balm or sun block for lips should also be applied, as well as a pair of ski goggles or sunglasses. More information can be found at www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandadvice.
Choosing The Right Piste
Choose the piste suitable for your ability. It is important to be aware of how pistes are classified to indicate their difficulty. Know your limits and don’t attempt slopes beyond your level of ability. When you arrive in a resort, you should obtain and study the piste/trail map of the area. It is useful to note that there can be local and national variations in signs, rules and regulations. Do also be aware that piste classifications vary in different ski resorts and countries. Piste conditions change during the day as the sun moves and warms up the snow especially later in the season.
Before You Ski
• Always check the weather forecast and snow conditions at the lift company or tourist office prior to hitting the slopes. (For more information on avalanche awareness visit www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandadvice.)
• Familiarise yourself with the area piste map and always carry a copy with you.
• Before taking the ski lift, watch and take note of how to access it. Take note of cable car, lifts and funicular closing times, and avoid being stranded far from your accommodation.
• If skiing alone, always tell someone where you are planning to go.
On The Piste
• Physical exertion at high altitudes can leave you tired and dehydrated. It’s unlikely you’ll
be fully acclimatised, even at the end of your holiday. Ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. (Note that drinking alcohol can affect you more quickly at high altitudes and most insurers won’t pay out if you injure yourself and others. It also affects your resistance to, and awareness of the cold, which can put you in danger.)
• Take a break from skiing or boarding when you feel tired, a high proportion of accidents happen at the end of the day.
• Take note of the International Ski Federation’s rules of conduct for safety on the slopes:
1. Respect: Do not endanger others.
2. Control: Adapt the manner and speed of your skiing to your ability and to the general conditions on the mountain.
3. Choice of route: The skier/snowboarder in front has priority − leave enough space.
4. Overtaking: Leave plenty of space when overtaking a slower skier/snowboarder.
5. Entering and starting: Look up and down the mountain each time before starting or entering a marked run.
6. Stopping: Only stop at the edge of the piste or where you can easily be seen.
7. Climbing: When climbing up or down, always keep to the side of the piste.
8. Signs: Obey all signs and markings − they are there for your safety.
9. Assistance: In case of accidents provide help and alert the rescue service.
10. Identification: All those involved in an accident, including witnesses, should exchange names and addresses.
Off-piste skiing and snowboarding has become more and more popular in recent years with the attraction of heading off the marked runs and seeking out fresh powder. However, until you are trained and very experienced, it is sensible to go with a group led by a professional Guide. If you do decide to head off-piste, you need to make sure you are fully prepared and equipped. This means carrying the appropriate equipment − at least an avalanche transceiver, a probe pole and a shovel; there are also inflatable ‘floatation’ devices available, and you will need a fully charged phone that operates in the country you are in with the necessary emergency numbers saved. You must know how to use the equipment correctly, know the avalanche risk grading for the day (as published by the piste authorities) and gather information on the area so you know where you are at all times and how to get back to patrolled areas. You must be able to identify potentially risky areas on the route you
are taking. When you are off piste, you should not only consider avalanche risk, but also bear in mind rocks, trees, cliffs, ravines, crevasses and other hazards.