Winter sports are a great opportunity for both children and families to be outside, spend time together, and be active. Adapted skiing and snowboarding have recently become more popular and accessible so that everyone can have fun on the slopes together. There are several resorts in the Northeast that have an adapted lodge for special equipment and individualized adapted ski instructors for children and adults of all abilities, including Windham Mountain, Hunter Mountain, and Camelback. The Disabled Sports USA website is a reliable resource for finding lodges near you as well as familiarizing yourself with adapted equipment such as mono-skis, bi-skis, outriggers, and tethers.
No matter where you and your family are skiing or snowboarding, here are a few basic safety principles that will keep you having fun in the great outdoors.
- Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF are a must. The sun can reflect off the snow and even on the whitest days, can give you a red nose or chapped lips. Ski goggles can also help with the glare, especially when skiing out West.
- Hydration is key. You can prep your body by drinking water before your ski trip and by taking water breaks during your ski day. When your body is cold, it burns more calories, and you will be burning calories as you carve your way down the mountain! Depending on where you are skiing, keeping your body hydrated with lots of water and a sports drink or juice will even help prevent altitude sickness.
- Choose to suit up in gear that is non-wicking such as socks, thermal undergarments, and fleece. Dress in warm layers and be prepared for any conditions. Remember that keeping your head warm helps keep your whole body warm, so pack your wool hat and cover your ears.
- Bring a change of dry clothes to change into for the ride home. This would include dry socks, in case they get wet from a few tumbles on the mountain.
- Do not go out on the slopes without a helmet. Helmets not only protect you from unpredictable conditions but also add another layer of warmth to your head and ears. Some mountains offer helmet discounts on national awareness days so you can even buy or rent one on the mountain if you don’t have your own.
- Don’t forget to pack your medications if you regularly take them. Also, call the lodge in advance to inquire about snacks and food available if you have special food allergies.
- Rest! Get a good night sleep the night before and remember to take rest breaks during the day to refuel, hydrate, and give your working body a break. Listen to your body.
- Prepare your body in advance by doing some gentle exercises 3-6 weeks before ski season to increase your endurance and to boost up your confidence. Wake up those abs, gluts, and hip muscles by doing some squats, lunges, and clamshells. Your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh) will thank you.
- Don’t be shy to take lessons especially if you are a beginner, but even if you are an intermediate skier or boarder, various lessons are available. Ask your instructor to review basic safety and ski etiquette and ask any questions you may have. They are knowledgeable and want you to be safe and share their love of the mountain! You can visit the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) website for their safety tips.
- Most importantly, bring a camera and your smile! You are going to have so much fun feeling free in the great outdoors.
Siobhan Clarke is a doctor of physical therapy, pediatric certified specialist, and Advanced Clinician at the CA Technologies Pediatric Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. She is trained in clinical gait analysis testing and works closely with orthopedic surgeons, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers in the Leon Root Motion Analysis Lab and at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Cerebral Palsy Clinic.