Going down the slopes with your kids is a great way to spend family vacations. But make sure you also keep safety in mind while skiing and snowboarding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends skiing and snowboarding as excellent lifetime sports. They can be learned at a young age and continued well into adulthood to keep the body fit. These sports, however, pose some risks. Approximately 103,274 skiing and snowboarding injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments in 2010, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

To prevent your family from adding to this number, follow these safety tips from the AAP:

  • Head gear: Your family should wear properly fitting helmets that are specifically designed for skiing or snowboarding to decrease the likelihood of head injuries. Most people on the slopes wear helmets these days; they are practically fashionable.

  • Wrist guards: Snowboarders should wear wrist guards to prevent wrist injuries.

  • Proper fit: Ask ski shop personnel who have experience in outfitting children what equipment they think will work best for your kids. Also, check with them to make sure your family’s ski bindings are adjusted properly. Many ski injuries are caused by poorly adjusted bindings. Make sure equipment fits properly and bindings are adjusted correctly.

  • Layer up: Dress in layers. Wear coats that are wind and water resistant, hats or headbands underneath helmets, and gloves or mittens. Because kids are especially prone to cold hands, mittens may be the better choice since they keep hands warmer than gloves.

  • Sun protection: Wear goggles or sunglasses and sunscreen, even on overcast days.

  • Hydration: Everyone should drink lots of water while on the slopes to prevent altitude sickness and keep the mind alert.

  • Contact: No one should ski or snowboard alone, and an adult should always accompany small children. Decide on a meeting place on the mountain in case somebody gets separated from the group. If possible, carry a cell phone and make sure your children know your number.

© 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics. This Parent Plus may be freely copied and distributed with proper attribution.