Skitouring - Snowsafe In The Alpine Regions

Snowsafe In The Alpine Regions

Taken from [18/6/04]

The following information is essential and relevant to all visitors to Alpine Areas, regardless of the length of the visit or the type of alpine activity. Even on the shortest visit to the snow it is important to be fully prepared for and aware of the nature of the alpine environment.


When planning your trip to the alps select a resort or area which caters for you and your group's needs as facilities, experiences and opportunities vary widely between resorts and various parts of the Alpine National Park. When planning it is important to prepare your vehicle for a trip to the snow, organise your clothing and equipment, improve your fitness, organise lessons, take special care with children and arrange to leave details of your trip. Pan your alpine holiday carefully and you'll have a great time.


Alpine weather is unpredictable and a fine sunny day can quickly deteriorate into cold, wet, high wind or blizzard conditions. Your clothing, therefore, must be versatile and you should have ready access to protective clothing. Clothing can be divided into two layers - the inner, insulating layers and the outer windproof and waterproof layer. Insulating Layers In cold weather these are the most important layers. Several thin layers that trap air and are made of material that will stay warm, even when wet, are better than a couple of thick bulky layers. The number of insulating layers you wear depends on the weather and the activity you are participating in. Wearing thermal underwear will also help insulate against the cold. Wool is a good natural fibre but manufactured fibres such as polypropylene and fibre pile are even more effective. Wherever there is a reference to wool, these new fibres will do just as well or better Outer Layer: Staying dry and reducing the effects of wind chill are important, therefore your jacket and overpants should be waterproof and windproof. The outer layer also helps to insulate by trapping warm air next to the body. If you don't have your own windproof and waterproof outer clothing you can hire them from most ski hire outlets. It is important to wear a woollen hat as body heat can be lost from the head. Woollen socks and gloves or mittens should also be worn. On wet days, large rubber dishwashing gloves over woollen gloves help to keep hands warm and dry. Never wear jeans, cotton or nylon clothing as these materials don’t provide adequate protection against wind, rain or snow.

What to wear or carry:

  • Clothing made of wool or synthetic fibres that have insulating properties
  • A number of layers of thin clothing, rather than a few layers of thick clothing
  • Woollen beanie, gloves or mittens. • Warm underclothing, i.e. thermals
  • Warm outer clothing, e.g. woollen jumpers trousers & Woollen socks
  • Waterproof overmitts and overpants
  • Goggles or sunglasses
  • Gaiters
  • Long waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Spare clothing if over nighting. Before you buy clothing, seek expert advice and remember 'showerproof' is not waterproof
  • Skin & Eye Protection Sunburn can be a serious problem, even on cloudy days. In addition to protective clothing, always use a good sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) to protect skin exposed to direct or reflected sunlight. To protect your eyes from the glare off the snow (which can lead to ‘snow blindness’) the use of high quality sunglasses or goggles is essential and wear a wide brimmed hat to protect your face on sunny days. If you are dependent on spectacles, carry a spare pair, in case you lose or damage your glasses while in the alps.
  • Helmets Helmets are a serious option for children but a growing number of adults are using them for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Give it some thought.

Keep well away from snow clearing machines. It is often necessary to reverse these machines, and snow clearing operators may not be able to see you in snowdrift or falling snow conditions. Also, the fountain of snow coming from the blowers may contain ice chunks and stones.
Do not overtake clearing equipment until they have stopped blowing snow.
Do not be a downhill racer.


Food provides energy for movement and for maintaining your body temperature. The risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level), particularly in young women, can be reduced by having good meals, maintaining fluid intake and stopping when tired.

  • Don't skip breakfast – it's the most important meal of the day.
  • Eat a little more than normal & eat often.
  • Carry high energy foods which can be eaten with little or no preparation.
  • Intake of liquids, sweet if possible, should be high.
  • Popular high energy foods include: nuts, chocolate bars, hot drinks and soups, cheese, raisins and sultanas.
  • Do not consume alcohol before or during skiing or boarding.
  • Popular high energy foods for a day tour include: Bread or dried biscuits, cheese, peanut butter, honey, nuts, raisins, sultanas. chocolate.


Children’s needs for learning and equipment are different to those of adults. Skis, boards, boots and bindings should be specifically made for children, not adapted for them, and equipment should be properly fitted by a reputable ski shop – remember that children only need light ski binding settings. Children should always wear warm, protective clothing and head gear (i.e. a helmet).
Young children should be in the care of an adult rather than an older child. If you are not skiing/boarding together, be sure they know where they can find you. Having a name tag in an obvious place (with ski lodge or home address) can help the Ski Patrol locate you should one of your children be lost or injured.
Most ski and board riding schools now provide special classes for young children. This is a great way for them to learn to ski or board. They are taught by instructors who are trained to teach children and they learn to ski or board with people their own age. As they become more experienced they can become involved in the more advanced programs available at most mountains.
Children should not be piggy-backed in child carriers while skiing or boarding as there is an increased risk of hypothermia and frost bite to the child. There is also an increased risk of injury to both the skier/boarder and the child if the skier/boarder falls. Child backpacks are prohibited at some alpine resorts.


Always check your equipment before using it. Prior to the snow season have your equipment serviced and checked.
There are special equipment requirements for each of the different activities, i.e.: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski touring and snowboarding. Contact your local ski retailer for further detailed information on equipment.
Ski and boarding equipment is also available for hire from most ski/board outlets and specialist hire stores.

Common sense and care will reduce the risk of loss or theft:

  • Know where to locate your skis/board at all times.
  • Use a combination lock.
  • Never leave your skis or board on a roof rack without locking them to the rack.
  • Mark all clothing.
  • Leave skis/board in a "ski minder" if one is available.
  • Separate your skis or split them with someone else.

If loss or theft occurs contact the police or resort staff immediately, giving them a full description of all items, i.e.: make, model and any distinguishing marks.

Operation Identification:
This program is aimed at theft prevention and involves marking your equipment for easy identification (we suggest your driver's licence number, with state prefix). Thieves are reluctant to take these marked items as they can be associated with the theft and are traceable. Properly marked equipment can also be returned when found.
Contact your local police station for more information about this program.

For information regarding recommended ski insurance and security contact Skiing Australia on (03) 9614-2644.

Environmental Care

In an endeavour to protect the resort areas, the resorts undertake feral animal control and weed control to protect our native fauna and flora. Our native alpine fauna are very vulnerable to predators such as cats and foxes and have no natural defences to attacks by these introduced species.
Similarly the alpine resorts aim to rid the reserves of weeds such as English Broom, Lupins, Pattersons Curse, Blackberries and even cultivated species such as domestic apple. So keep your eyes open during summer or winter rambles and take your apple cores home with you. If, during summer or winter, you see cats, foxes, straying cattle or weeds, notify the resort office. The alpine environment is fragile. Please treat it with care and respect so that others may enjoy it after you.


Alpine weather can be wonderful but changeable. Snow falls have been recorded in all months of the year. Study the latest forecasts, but keep a close watch on weather as well and seek shelter immediately if an approaching storm or change is observed.