Keeping Winter Outings Safe

What churches should do with skiing, snowboarding, and sledding activities.

Many churches sponsor recreational activities during the winter months. A few safety tips can greatly reduce the potential for serious injuries. In recent years, the number of total injuries to skiers has declined, but the number of head injuries has stayed about the same. However, for snowboarders, both numbers have significantly increased.

The overall accident rate has tripled and head injuries have increased by a factor of five. One important factor is that children are more likely to experience a head injury and are participating in snowboarding in increasing numbers, especially for those between 7 and 11 years of age.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated that a helmet would have prevented or lessened the severity of two-thirds of the injuries associated with a fall. Falls are the leading cause of head and neck injuries.

In addition to helmets, skiers should also be encouraged to wear wristbands. Wrist injuries often occur as individuals stretch out their arms to break a fall. Sledding also requires careful supervision. Each year, serious accidents occur as the result of collisions with obstacles such as trees and with other children. Sleds can achieve high speeds and sleds with runners can cause particularly bad injuries. Makes sure that sled runs are clear and avoid the use of sleds that have runner blades.

If your church is planning a skiing, snowboarding, or sledding activity, be sure to encourage participants to wear helmets and wristbands. Also, instruct skiers to:

  • maintain a safe speed,
  • stay on trails,
  • use trails for their level of expertise,
  • slow down at points where ski trails merge, and
  • take regular breaks and not to ski when they are tired.

In addition, instruct supervisors to correct inappropriate behavior immediately and basic emergency prodcedures in case of an accident or a health problem.

James F. Cobble, Jr., received his master of divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, and also has doctoral degrees from both Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Illinois.
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