(Published January 2017, last reviewed 2021 with no updates)
Snowsports are great activities to do; whether by making use of snowy weather or fantastic indoor or outdoor artificial facilities all year round. There are loads of activities to suit all ages and abilities.
This guidance aims to give some hints and tips as to how to safely mange these activities where they fall outside the Adventurous Activity Permit Scheme and when using external providers.
Types of Activity
As well as skiing and snowboarding, there are loads of other winter sports which may be suitable for your section to take part in. When considering which activity to try, you need to think about what age range this activity suits, location and access to equipment, etc.
Here are some ideas:
Sledging (Sledge/Sled) - A sledge is composed of a flat surface with skis/runners or rails attached on the underside of the sledge in order to enable better control. The skis glide along the top of the snow or ice.
Tobogganing (Toboggan) - A toboggan takes the form of a simple sledge which is curved in front and is placed directly onto the snow without the use of runners or skis to gain speed and direction on the underside.
Ringos – Hard-based plastic covered inner tubes which slide down the slope. Ringos can be spun, linked or raced down the slope.
Skibob - A method of riding downhill over snow. A skibob consists of a bicycle-type frame attached to skis instead of wheels and is used with a set of foot skis to assist with balancing.
Yooner Sledging – Consists of a seat, a shock-absorber and a ski. You don’t have to lift up your feet, just keep them on the ground as you slide down.
Snowshoeing - A snowshoe is a type of footwear designed for walking over the snow. Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person's foot does not sink completely into the snow. Snowshoeing is a form of hiking.
Igloo and Snow Cave Building – An igloo is a dome-shaped hut usually made from compacted blocks of snow. A snow cave is usually dug into snow. Both provide shelter from cold winds and low temperatures.
Snow Biking - Snow Bikes are Fat Bikes, Mountain Bikes and other bikes with wide tyres providing them with traction on snow. Mountain bike tyres run at low pressure provide adequate traction.
Snowmobile – an automotive vehicle which has been purpose built for travel on snow. Typically an open vehicle for one or two people with steerable skis on the front and a revolving caterpillar track at the rear.
When running snowsports activities always check you have appropriate equipment for the activity, environment and group members (taking into account their size, etc.). There are plenty of places to hire equipment along with instructors etc. If you are using equipment make sure you know how to maintain it, fix it whilst out and store it appropriately.
Make sure the group come prepared, wearing appropriate clothing to keep them warm and dry. Specialist ski gear is available at reasonable cost but simple layers and waterproofs may suit your activity. Warm, waterproof clothing, as well as a hat (if helmet is not required for the activity), gloves and sturdy footwear are essentials for most snowsport activities.
Helmets must be worn for all snowsports activities as outlined in POR Rule 9.33. If in doubt wear a helmet.
Non permit based snowsports
Some snowsports activities don’t require permit holders to be present, this includes skiing and snowboarding on artificial and nursery slopes and sledging, etc. in Terrain 0. In these situations the following guidance should be followed by the person leading the activity in order to manage the activity safely:
- Risk assessment - conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation and make informed decisions as to the management of the activity. This risk assessment should be dynamic and continue throughout the activity. If the safety cover feels at any stage that the risks are too high then the activity should be stopped.
- Environmental factors - assess factors such as weather (including temperature) determine a suitable duration of activity.
- Snowsports proficiency - have sufficient snowsports proficiency and experience to conduct effective rescues should the need arise. Therefore they should be a strong enough skier / snowboarder for the location.
- Rescue - be capable of administering first aid to a casualty and if needs be getting them to a point of safety, this should be appropriate to the location and equipment available.
- Equipment - be capable of using the equipment provided to participants as well as any suitable rescue equipment for the location being used. This needs to be available and on hand for the safety cover to use if needed.
- Snowsports area - clearly define the snowsports area and communicate this to the group in an appropriate way. This may include the use of markers, flags, etc. When deciding on the snowsports area consider your own experience, the ability of the group, safety cover, other users in the area, etc.
- Communication - clearly communicate with the group. This needs to be included in any briefing given so that the participants are aware of the signals for exiting the area, etc.
- Access - ensure access for the participants to enter and exit the snowsports area. Access to the area must be possible to conduct a rescue or recovery.
- Manage the group effectively whilst the group are on the slopes - This will include; adequate briefings prior to the group entering the slopes, defining a suitable snowsports area, what to do in an emergency and communication whilst the group is doing the activity.
- Ratios - provide adequate cover based on the ratio identified in the risk assessment, and ensure that additional adult supervision is provided in line with the section ratios for outdoor activities. For skiing and snowboarding activities it is always recommended to not exceed the ratios identified within the Adventurous Activity Permit Scheme.
Externally provided artificial snowsports activities
There are many externally managed snowsports facilities within the UK, these come in the form of dry ski slopes and more modern snow domes, etc.
It's important to check that you are satisfied that the provider is meeting the externally led activities requirements.