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Recreational Winter Sports Safety


Did you know that approximately 40 percent of winter sports-related head injuries could have been prevented, or minimized, with the use of a helmet? Helmets are intended to absorb the force and dissipate the energy involved in blunt force trauma.

Helmet use is mandated for ice hockey, alpine ski racing and other competitive winter sports, but few state laws require a helmet for recreational use. Evidence suggests that helmet use for recreational activities should also be mandated. There is little risk associated with wearing a helmet and a significant decrease in risk of serious injury when a helmet is worn.

How to select and fit a helmet:

  1. Select a certified helmet designed specifically for snow sports*
  2. Make sure the pads are flush to your cheeks and forehead
  3. The fit should be snug, but not tight, and have a fastened chinstrap
  4. The helmet should sit level with the front being no more than 1 inch above your eyebrows
  5. It should not roll forward, backward, or slip from side-to-side
  6. After a crash or accident, the helmet should be replaced, even if damage is not visible

*Certified helmets meet the following safety standards: ASTM F2040, CEN 1077, Snell RS-98 or S-98.

Ice thickness and safety

As winter weather approaches, you may find yourself taking your winter gear out of the closet, including your ice skates. So how do you know if the ice is safe to be on? Read below for a few pointers:

  1. Your safety is your responsibility. Ice is never 100 percent safe. There are a variety of factors that can affect safety, including temperature and snow cover. A body of water is rarely the same thickness throughout; for example, the middle of the lake might have a few inches of ice, but the edges might be thinner.
  2. Always measure the thickness. This measurement can be done using an ice chisel, an ice auger, or cordless drill. Once water is reached, use a tape measure to determine the thickness from the bottom to the top of the ice. If you don’t have the proper tools, check with your local fire department or police department. In Sitka, when the temperatures are low and ice is visible, Sitka Fire Department personnel will measure and report the ice thickness to the police department, along with the newspaper and radio stations.
  3. Keep the general guidelines in mind. The Department of Natural Resources suggests:
  • Under four inches thick: STAY OFF!
  • Four inches thick: Ice: fishing or other activities on foot
  • Five- to seven-inches thick: snowmobile or ATV
  • Eight- to twelve-inches thick: car or small pickup
  • Twelve- fifteen-inches thick: medium truck

*These guidelines are for new, clear ice only. White ice, or snow ice, is only half the strength, so the above thickness guidelines should be doubled.

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