06 Dec

Get Fit for Ski

With over a million Brits planning a Winter Sports holiday this season, ABTA is launching a new campaign to encourage travellers to ‘Get Fit for Ski’, providing health & safety advice and recommended warm-up exercises.  To coincide with this campaign, ABTA, in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ski Club Great Britain, has also developed a Winter Sports Checklist with advice and tips for skiers.

“A little preparation can help ensure your skiing holiday goes without a hitch,” said Nikki White, Head of Destinations and Sustainability, ABTA.   “It’s not unusual to be out on the slopes for 4-6 hours at a time, yet many people go straight into a ski or snowboarding holiday without doing any training or preparation first. Preparing before you go can help prevent injury and ensure you don’t miss out on the fun.  Additionally, having the right equipment, knowing your limits when it comes to après ski and buying appropriate insurance, will all help your holiday go smoothly.”

Being prepared is all the more important as new ABTA research* shows that only 41% of holiday makers check their insurance covers activities such as skiing, paragliding or water sports before participating in them.  This goes down to just 34% of 15-24 year olds and 37% of men, supporting beliefs that these groups are more willing to take risks.  The figures suggest that holidaymakers are putting themselves at risk of expensive medical costs, for example, it could cost up to £40,000 to be treated for a fractured leg in the United States, or £8,000 to treat a knee injury in Austria*. 

Top tips from the ABTA/FCO and Ski Club GB Winter Sports Checklist include:
Before you go:

  • Be physically prepared.  This will help you get the most out of your break and reduce your risk of injury.  Good to practice sports include cycling and running.  Also – don’t push yourself too far – there’s no shame in calling it a day early if you’re tired and enjoying the rest of the afternoon in the spa. Most injuries occur on the last run of the day when you’re tired. And you’re on holiday!
  • Get the right insurance.  When buying travel insurance make sure it covers any activities you might be doing e.g. sleigh rides, bob sleigh, Heli Skiing, snowboarding etc. and check the small print for any hidden clauses e.g. ‘only covered off piste with a guide’. If travelling within Europe it is recommended to have both a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and travel insurance. 26% of travellers mistakenly believe that an EHIC will cover their repatriation costs if they fall ill or have an accident and have to be flown back to the UK
  • Stay sun safe. Perhaps not the obvious things to pack for a winter holiday but the sun is much stronger at altitude, and you get a double hit when it reflects off the snow so sunglasses and high factor sun cream are essential items to avoid risk of burn and protect your eyes
  • Check www.fco.gov.uk/travel before you go for the latest country advice and tips

In resort:

  • Know your limits. A night of après ski or boozy lunch can affect you more quickly at high altitudes.  Be aware of your limits to stay safe on and off the slopes. If walking home at night make sure you keep to the designated resort paths and wrap up warm
  • Keep hydrated. Exercise in high altitude can lead your body to tire and dehydrate faster than usual so you’ll need to drink more water throughout the day
  • Stretch and warm up. Cold weather can tense muscles making them more prone to injury. Make sure you are well flexed and supple by doing a few warm up exercises before you hit the slopes
  • Choose the right piste for your level. It might be tempting to impress your friends with that black run but overstretching yourself may lead to tricky situations. Also be aware that grading levels can be different; what may be a blue run in France may be a red run in Austria.
  • Be sensible off piste. If you’re seeking fresh powder, unless you are trained it is sensible to go with a group led by a professional guide and pack the right equipment such as a probe pole and shovel.
  • Be avalanche aware. Make sure you read or listen to the daily avalanche forecast to minimise your risk of being caught in one.


Lynda St Cooke from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: “We strongly advise anyone hitting the slopes this winter to take out comprehensive travel insurance and make sure you have an up to date EHIC card. Don’t forget to check the small print – most insurance policies will not cover you if you’re under the influence of alcohol or venture off-piste.  If you’re unlucky enough to have an accident and you’re not covered, you could find yourself thousands of pounds out of pocket.”

“Skiing is a holiday but also a sport so it’s always a good idea to prepare on the run up to the season in preparation – we advise you start at least 8 weeks prior to your holiday. Being fit will not only improve endurance on the slopes but helps to prevent injury. Strong muscles help to protect joints and also enhance your performance so the fitter you are, the more you can achieve on the slopes and the more you’ll enjoy yourself,” said Vicky Norman, PR Manager, Ski Club GB.

* Source: Europ Assistance
* ABTA 2011 Consumer Trends Survey

To see more about the campaign and download the “How to Have a Safe and Healthy Holiday in the snow” leaflet and Winter Sports checklist visit www.abta.com/getfitforski