Freshly fallen snow, well-groomed pistes and a cup of hot chocolate in the morning sun before you put on your skis and head up the mountain: for many of us, a ski holiday is the highlight of the year, and a great way to spend quality time with friends and family.

To make sure your long-awaited ski holiday remains a positive experience, it is important to come prepared, both physically and mentally. With the right preparation and equipment, you can avoid unnecessary injuries and accidents. Ski tour operator SnowTrex has put together a guide to staying safe on the slopes.

The FIS Rules – The ten commandments of skiing

The go-to reference for ski safety are the ten FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) rules of conduct. These “ten commandments” of skiing and snowboarding are valid worldwide and are the ski area equivalent of traffic rules. The basic principle is more or less the same as in a traffic situation: ski defensively, show consideration toward fellow skiers on the slopes and avoid risk-taking.

1. Showing consideration

All skiers and snowboarders must behave in such a way that no-one else on the piste is put in danger or becomes hindered in their skiing.

2. Controlling your speed

It is the responsibility of everyone to keep their speed under control. How fast you can ski must always be decided depending on terrain, slope-conditions, snowfall, and how many fellow skiers are on the slope.

3. Respecting the right of way

Skiers and snowboarders in front of you have right of way. Anyone coming from behind must choose their route accordingly, to avoid putting skiers in front of them in danger.

4. Overtaking

Overtaking other skiers or snowboarders is allowed from all directions, but only if the overtaken skier or snowboarder does not get impeded or is limited in their skiing.

5. Entering a piste, and stopping and starting

Skiers or snowboarders entering a new piste, starting again after a stop, or moving upwards on the piste must make sure that their movement does not pose a risk to either themselves or anyone else on the piste.

6. Stopping

Stopping in a blind or narrow spot in the piste is prohibited unless in an emergency. Anyone falling in such an area must move away from it as fast as possible.

7. Moving up and down the piste on foot

Anyone moving up and down the piste on foot must do so along the edge of the piste.

8. Respecting signs

Piste markings and signs must be respected.

9. Providing assistance

In the event of an accident, every skier or snowboarder is obligated to help.

10. ID requirement

In the event of an accident, all skiers or snowboarders, regardless of being involved in the accident or just a witness, must be able to produce an ID.

Coming prepared – physically and mentally

Your equipment isn’t the only thing that needs preparing to ensure a safe ski holiday. Making the right decisions based on your physical fitness and your experience level is just as crucial. This checklist is a good way to make sure you are good to go!

Choosing where to go

Carefully picking a ski area that fits your ability as a skier means that you will have more quality time on the slopes, and be less frustrated with either too difficult or too easy skiing. Ask a specialist ski tour operator to help guide you in the jungle, and study the piste maps to plan your days in the snow. Less experienced skiers are advised to choose a ski area with a lot of green or blue pistes.

Check your physical fitness

A week of skiing is physically demanding, so if you exercise regularly you will have the energy to spend more time on skis and enjoy yourself in the snow during your holiday. Specialised ski gymnastics could be the way to go, and gyms often offer special programmes strengthening the most important muscle groups.

Consider taking ski lessons

Not just beginners benefit from ski lessons: even if you have many years of experience, there is always room to improve your technique. The better you get at skiing, and the more you know your limitations as a skier, the likelier you are to avoid accidents and injuries.

Warming up and winding down

Always start your ski day by doing some simple warm-up and stretching exercises. By preparing your body for the upcoming physical challenges you reduce the chances of injury. Also, give your muscles some time to adjust by starting with easier runs before taking on red or black slopes. After a day on the slopes, a few stretching exercises help your body remain fit and decreases muscle pain.

Five do’s and don’ts in the skiing areas


Ski defensively and without putting other skiers in danger

Take breaks at regular intervals, and end the ski day when you start feeling tired

Both your skill and the pistes have limits – know them and ski accordingly

Follow the rules for the lifts and pay attention to signs and lift opening times

To keep energy levels high, eat and drink throughout the day. At high altitudes, easily digestible food is good as it relieves strain on your body.


Don’t ski at faster speeds than you can control, and do not ski aggressively.

Don’t combine skiing and alcohol. Alcohol gives you poor judgement, slows down your reactions and has a stronger impact when consumed at high altitudes. As the name implies, après ski should be done after skiing!

Don’t continue skiing when you start feeling tired.

Don’t ski on pistes that are closed for maintenance. Pistes are blocked for a reason, as piste machines working with rope winches pose a high risk of injury.

Don’t ski outside marked routes, or in glacier or avalanche zones. Take avalanche warnings seriously, and don’t leave the marked piste at warning level 3 or above.

In the event of an accident

The FIS rules state that you are obligated to provide assistance in the unlikely event of an accident. This checklist explains what you can do to help in an emergency situation on the slopes.

  • Try to keep calm and to secure the accident area, and of course yourself.
  • Offer help and keep the injured person warm.
  • Call the SOS emergency number 112 to inform rescue services about the situation. Alternative numbers include 1414 for Switzerland, 140 for Austria and 118 for Italy.  
  • Be prepared to provide the following information: your identity, what happened, the number of people injured, time of the accident, the exact location of the accident and weather conditions at the accident area.
  • Leave your phone on and exchange IDs and contact information.

Check your equipment


After your skis or snowboard, your helmet is undoubtedly the most important part of your equipment. Make sure it follows the EU standard (EN 1077), and try it on together with your ski goggles to make sure they fit together. When shaking your head, the helmet should not move, nor should it fit too tightly. Even if you don’t use your helmet very often, the material loses some of its features with time, and it is advised to replace it at least every eight years. Replacing your helmet should also be done if there is visible damage to it after an accident. Did you know that wearing a helmet is mandatory for children in Italy and in many Austrian states? Not following the rules can see you facing a hefty fine and losing your lift pass.


Goggles provide eye protection and improves your vision on the piste. Moreover, they protect you from snowfall, UV radiation and airstream. Most goggles are equipped with double glasses for thermal insulation. For an optimal fit, try on your googles together with your helmet (and your normal glasses, if you are using any). Any gap between the upper rim of the googles and the helmet should be kept at a minimum, and the goggles shouldn’t put pressure on your nose. A scale of 0 to 4 is used to categorise the glare protection level of the goggles. For alpine snow sports, level 3 is recommended at the least, whereas level 4 is needed for the stronger solar radiation that you are exposed to on a glacier. Polarised goggles provide extra glare protection and improves your sight. So do photochromic goggles, which adjust depending on light conditions.


A waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least SPF 30 is crucial to protect your face from the extreme sun light that you are exposed to at high altitudes. A special lip balm is also important to protect the sensitive skin on your lips. Definitely avoid using a moisturiser on your face in the morning, as this will freeze in cold temperatures (which will feel even colder due to the wind).


There are several factors to consider when picking the right clothes for your ski holiday. In addition to keeping you warm, they should also be functional and offer good mobility while skiing. The three-layer principle is a good way to make sure you are appropriately clothed. Start off with thermal underwear (avoid cotton and go for a synthetic material instead), add a fleece-layer for insulation, and then a windproof, water-resistant and breathable outer layer. Pick a jacket and pants that have snow guards to keep snow from getting in, sealable pockets to keep things from falling out, and a RECCO reflector for avalanche safety.


If you choose the right gloves, they will keep your hands dry and warm during the whole day. Make sure they are waterproof, wind resistant and that the material can breathe. Choosing mittens will give your hands extra warmth, whereas gloves are more ergonomic and leaves your fingers mobile. Never buy gloves that are too small, as this will prevent you from both moving your fingers and keeping your hands warm. Usually, glove manufacturers have sizing charts to help you find the right size for your hands.

Back and wrist protectors

Popular among off piste- and freestyle skiers, back protectors provide extra protection for the spine. Apart from the fit, it is also important to choose a protector with good ventilation. Check with your store that the protector complies with the European CE EN 1621-2 standard. A must-have for snowboarders are wrist protectors.


Carrying a backpack when skiing gives you extra space for a change of clothes and a well-deserved packed lunch. As a large and heavy backpack can interfere with you mobility, a good maximum size limit is 20 litres. Large backpacks can pose a problem in chair lifts if they take up too much space, and you might not even be able to close the safety bar correctly. Just as with your jacket, your backpack should be waterproof, and chest and waist straps are important to keep the backpack in place when skiing.

Ski boots

It is a good idea to let a specialist help you in your choice of ski boots. They will not only make sure that your boots meet the required safety standards, but also that you find a model that fits the anatomy of your feet. Don’t forget to wear you ski socks when trying on the boots. Finding the right size is not just a question of comfort: as the fit of your boots affects how your muscle power is transferred to your skis, your style of skiing should also be considered. Usually, beginners go for a softer shell with a comfortable inner boot, and experts opt for a harder shoe.


With the number of skis offered on the market, choosing which skis to go for can be a confusing matter. Answering a few questions will help you on your way. Will you be using the skis often, and where will you use them? Do you prefer carving in groomed slopes, or will you primarily use them for off piste skiing?  Depending on your preferences and demands, either rocker skis, racing skis or slalom carvers will turn out to be the right choice. A specialist ski shop can help you find the right model, length and width, as well as adjusting your bindings to fit your weight and your skiing style. Remember to adjust your bindings at regular intervals to make sure they release at the right pressure.

Ski service

At the start of every season, always bring your equipment to a service shop to have them serviced. There, you can get your edges sharpened, your bindings adjusted to your weight and skiing style, as well as your coating repaired.

Tips for skiing with children

Children’s ski clothes should be well-fitting and neither be too small or too large, as this can impede their ability to ski. Scarves or cords that can flutter in the wind are best avoided. It is a good idea to keep an extra pair of gloves in your backpack, as these have a tendency to get lost. Colourful clothing helps you keep track of your children.

Children are more sensitive to cold temperatures than adults. In other words, it is important that their ski clothes are warm and insulated.

When buying a helmet, it’s worth considering including a chin guard as an extra protection. Make sure the helmet meets the CE 1077 safety standard.

The power and energy distribution from legs to skis goes through the ski boots, and having boots that are too large will reduce mobility. Ask a specialist to help you find well-fitting boots. Children are fast learners, which means that the bindings need to be adjusted more often than for an adult. Let a specialist help you with the adjustment.

Skis should reach at least the armpit and not reach longer than the shoulder. As children start to learn to ski, ski poles are actually best avoided, and should start being used only after they have gained some experience.

Set a good example for your children and wear a helmet. Children learn through imitation, so the way you behave on the slopes will reflect on how your children will behave.

For safety reasons, chair lifts are out of bounds for children shorter than 125 cm.

Although popular and intuitively a good idea to keep your child safe, keeping your child on a leash in the piste is best avoided, as it impedes their learning process.

A good age for your child to start with ski tuition is 3 or 4. Ski schools usually offer specialised courses for children which combine skiing and playing in designated practice areas.

Writing a note with contact details to leave in your child’s pocket is good if your child should get lost in the ski area.

Alpine ski areas are often located at high altitudes, to which children cannot adjust as quickly as adults. Take this into consideration, and avoid bringing children to altitudes of 1,500 metres or above. Pay attention to if your child complains about feeling tired or is quieter than normal: high altitude intolerance could be the reason.