Spending a day playing in the snow lifts spirits, expends energy and creates treasured family memories — when done safely. Follow these precautions to ensure a fun-filled and safe snow play day for your family. Whether you are hiking and backpacking, or sledding and building snowmen, stay safe in the elements with these snow safety tips.
1. Review the Weather Forecast
The adage, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” can take a dangerous turn in the season of snowstorms and quickly dropping temperatures. Head inside well before any predicted weather change and don’t play outside if the wind chill is below 13°F.
If you’re traveling away from the house, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Exercise extra precaution when driving in snow, no matter if it’s sun up or dark, or if snowfall is heavy or light. A rapid weather change or injury could turn into a dangerous situation — and in cold, wet conditions you can’t always rely on having a working cellphone close by.
2. Dress Appropriately
The keys to a fun and safe day outside are wearing layers and avoiding moisture.
Start with a base layer of wool or synthetic material — avoid cotton, which traps moisture next to your skin and makes you colder. The middle layer is for insulation, so wool and fleece are best. The outer layer should be waterproof, including waterproof boots. A single pair of wool or synthetic socks will keep you warmest — avoid thick socks which can make your feet colder by restricting blood flow and air circulation. Be sure to remove outer layers before you begin to sweat because it takes a lot of body heat to evaporate the moisture when your base layer gets wet.
Always cover your and your children’s heads, ears and hands. Consider a knit mask for family members with respiratory issues like asthma — cold air can cause difficulties breathing. Practice snow play safety with young ones by always tucking scarves into coats. Also consider a tube-shaped neck warmer as opposed to a scarf for younger children.
3. Check Your Equipment and the Area
The weather isn’t the only risk in the winter — you should also ensure your equipment and the area where you’re playing are safe. All equipment and safety gear should be appropriately sized for the user and well-maintained. Children aren’t fully coordinated until around 10 years old, so you may need to make adjustments for younger family members for snow play safety. For example, avoiding circular sleds and inner tubes, which are difficult to steer and stop.
Avoid playing near roads in winter when the streets might be slick and visibility lower. Check that your sledding hill is free of obstacles like rocks, fence posts and bushes and has room to stop at the bottom. Ensure the number of other sledders does not make it unsafe for you to be there.
If you’re not planning on ice activities, steer clear of playing near bodies of water. If your activities for the day include skating, hockey or ice fishing, begin by checking the thickness of ice.
4. Remember That You’re Playing Outdoors
Believe it or not, cold, dry air can cause dehydration more quickly than heat. Drink plenty of warm fluids, including soup broth and water to stay hydrated while you play outdoors. Consider bringing a thermos with hot chocolate for a warm treat after you’ve been outdoors for a while.
The sun’s rays reflect off the white snow, and winter sunburns aren’t unusual for the serious outdoors-lover! Wearing sunscreen all winter will protect you from harmful UVA rays that cause wrinkles, skin discoloration and cancer.
5. Listen to Your Body
Don’t ignore shivering! Spending too long in the cold can lead to hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. If anyone in your group is feeling uncomfortable, go inside, remove wet layers, warm up and switch to indoor activities.
Don’t hibernate all winter — get out and make the most of the winter months! Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget Frosty’s hat!