If you like gliding on a frozen pond in your skates, careening down a hill on your sled, or crossing a quiet forest in your snowshoes, this time of year can be exhilarating. But some thrills associated with winter activities can stop you in your tracks if slippery snow and ice, chilly temperatures, or high speeds put you in danger or knock you off your feet. Follow these precautions to enjoy your outdoor hobbies with less risk this season.

Check Your Gear

Cold weather provides a backdrop for many of winter’s outdoor activities, but it necessitates safety precautions too. When the weather requires, wear layers or a winter coat, a hat, gloves, warm socks, and water-resistant footwear. Fast speeds are the hallmark of many winter sports, so protect yourself with safety gear, such as a helmet, goggles, and padding. Before setting out, ensure that your equipment, such as your ski boots or skates, fits you correctly and that your gear is in working order.

Consider Your Surroundings

If you’ll be hitting a frozen pond, a slippery slope, or another outdoor location, be aware of your surroundings. Check weather reports before embarking to prevent being caught in a winter storm, and don’t venture out alone or go out after dark in unlit locations. If you’ll be ice-skating, remember that ice on a frozen lake, pond, or river is never 100 percent safe, and heed signs about thin ice. The safest places to skate are outdoor or indoor skating rinks that are carefully managed. If you go to a neighborhood hill or another natural place for sledding, snowboarding, or snow-tubing, avoid wooded areas or hills that end at a body of water, parking lot, or street.

Participate Safely

Many winter sports, such as ice-skating, skiing, and sledding, can involve high speeds, which may pose injury risks. Be aware of those around you, stay on marked trails, use the ski lift properly, and control your speed. Don’t partake in these sports alone or in unsupervised areas, and pay attention to posted rules. Keep your arms and legs inside a sled, and don’t sled headfirst, as it raises your chances of getting a concussion in a collision. It’s important not to stiffen up or reach your arms out to stop yourself from falling if you lose your balance on ice or snow, as is it can result in an elbow, shoulder, or wrist injury.

Protect Yourself and Others

Cold weather amplifies the risk of injury and puts extra stress on your body, so follow these tips to keep yourself safe.

Stay Aware
Spending long hours outdoors in cold weather can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, so familiarize yourself with their signs. With frostbite, your skin may change color or be cold to the touch, you could experience numbness, or you may get a prickling or stinging sensation. Meanwhile, hypothermia may cause shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and exhaustion. It’s important to take warm breaks from your activity to avoid these conditions.

Warm Up
Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are especially susceptible to injury, so warm up first by walking to the ski slope or ice-skating rink or by doing arm circles or leg swings.

Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of water before any physical activity, and bring a hydration pack or water bottle with you. Don’t drink alcohol when participating in a winter sport, since it can increase dehydration and your risk for injury.

Cover Up
UV rays can be stronger at higher altitudes and can be reflected off the snow or ice, so wear sunscreen and protect your eyes with sunglasses or goggles.

Seek Medical Attention
Cold- or sports-related injuries may demand immediate medical attention. Keep an emergency card on you that includes your name, emergency contact information, and relevant medical information. You could also put your medical information on your cell phone. Try to keep your phone warm by putting it in a pocket close to your body to help it keep its charge. For double protection, you might want to put it in a resealable plastic bag and keep it in a coat pocket that zips, so it will stay dry and won’t fall out. Finally, if you’re with someone who gets injured, keep watch over them while another person gets help.