The Ski Code

Thinking of skiing in Switzerland? Find out everything you need to know here, from avoiding injuries to sun protection...

There is an international code of etiquette and safety to be followed on all ski slopes. This code, the 10 Rules for Conduct, has been created by the International Ski Federation (FIS). The penalties for contravention vary from place to place although the rules themselves are unchanging and must always be obeyed.

Avoiding Injuries

Modern ski equipment has improved so much that injuries have been greatly reduced. However equipment needs to be regularly serviced and looked after properly.

  • Getting fit before you head to the mountains is invaluable; an unfit body will suffer aches and strains
  • Always warm up at the start of the day and cool down after exercising
  • Although it is not the law, wearing a helmet is strongly recommended, especially for children
  • Watch out for everyone around you, many accidents are caused by collisions
  • Follow the mountain code, the 10 Rules for Conduct
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks until you have finished the day's skiing
  • Take care on the last run of the day, tiredness reduces alertness and can make you careless
  • Slopes heading back into the resort at the end of the day will be very busy with skiers and boarders of varying levels, collisions are common

The Cold

By its very nature snow sports take place in the cold. Choose your kit carefully; wind proof and waterproof gear is essential as are items with zip up collars and cuffs. Keep a rucksack with spare layers so you can adjust to the varying temperatures during the day.

  • If you are injured concentrate on staying warm. The body will grow cold very quickly once it becomes inactive
  • Wear a hat: 60 percent of the body's heat is lost through the head, and this proportion is even greater for children
  • Hypothermia: the hypothermic body's temperature drops from 37 to 35°C. Symptoms include irritability, aggressiveness, cold, drowsiness. Remedy: take the sufferer inside if possible, if not warm them with body heat. Alcohol and cigarettes will only make the situation worse
  • Frost nip is caused when the temperature of the body's extremities drops below freezing. If caught in time the problem is not too serious however, if it is left it will become frostbite and cause extensive tissue damage

Pre-existing Health Conditions

  • Asthma: be aware that the cold can make the symptoms worse
  • Epilepsy: skiing is not recommended for severe sufferers. Take medical advice for individual cases
  • Diabetes: never ski alone and ensure that your fellow skiers are aware of the condition. Take plenty of glucose and sweets as a person of average age and weight burns up to 10 calories per minute when skiing. Also be aware that if hypoglycaemia sets in hypothermia becomes more difficult to detect

The Sun

The sun is a dual enemy in the mountains. Not only is there the risk of burning the skin but also eyes need protecting.

At higher altitude with thinner atmosphere, there is less protection from the UV rays and as much as 85 percent of the UV radiation can be reflected back from the snow into the eyes making the sun four times more dangerous to the eyes than it is at sea level. Without adequate eye-protection the sun can cause temporary and permanent sight loss (snow blindness)

Use high sun-protection factor on exposed skin, even when it appears overcast, the sun's rays are still there and you may also find yourself skiing above the cloud level.

Avalanches

If you are skiing on-piste and take the advice given by the authorities you should remain safe. Never ski off-piste if the authorities advise against it.

Avalanche risk is graded from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most dangerous and 1 being the least dangerous.

Risk level 1-2 
(low)
Risk level 3-4 
(high)
Risk level 5   
(very high)