If you live in an area that gets snow each year, then you’re probably not a stranger to frostbite; you may have experienced it yourself, or heard of someone who has, so you know how uncomfortable it can be. But for those who will be skiing (or even experience snow and freezing climate) for the first time, it would be best for you to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Frostbite happens when your skin and the underlying tissues are frozen, and often affect one’s face, toes, and fingers, but it can affect any patch of skin that isn’t protected from the blistering cold. The apparent symptoms of frostbite are numbness or prickly feeling in the affected area, red/white/bluish-white/grayish-yellow and hard, waxy-looking skin, stiffness, and blistering (once you escape the cold and get warm).
But frostbite can vary by stages, ranging from mild (frostnip) to severe (deep frostbite), and the latter can lead to necrosis (tissue death) of the affected area. You can lose fingers or even limbs in severe cases. That vivid image aside, you’ll want to protect yourself from frostbite by taking note of these simple tips before you set out to ski for the first time:
#1 Gear Up Against the Cold
The best way to protect yourself against frostbite is by wearing all the proper gear. Remember, frostbite can affect any exposed and unprotected patch of skin. As such, you should be covered from head to toe (and fingers), and ensure that you have as much skin covered as possible. It’s also noteworthy to mention that a lot of first-time (and even seasoned) skiers neglect to protect their neck and nose from frostbite, which is a surefire way to get frostnip (or severe frostbite if you’re not careful). So make sure that you include buying a scarf or knit mouth when you’re out buying your Descente men’s ski jacket for your trip.
Bonus Safety Note: Metal jewelry can expedite the freezing process on the skin it’s in contact with, so make sure to remove them before skiing, too.
#2 Feeling Numb or Prickly? Get Out of the Cold Quick
As soon as you start to notice the symptoms of frostbite, don’t chance it, get back to your cabin or lodge as soon as you can. Remember, numbness can be deceiving; you may think that your feet, toes, or fingers are just reacting to the cold, but it can be a sign of a mild or even severe frostbite. It’s also vital that you limit the time you spend on the slopes and take as many breaks as you can from the cold. Immerse the affected area in warm (not hot) water until it gets back to average body temperature, then wrap the area with a blanket.
#3 Wet Clothes? Time To Bail and Change
Another sign that you should get out of the cold and back to your cabin is when your clothes start to get wet. We’ve mentioned that frostbite can affect unprotected or exposed skin, but your skin is basically ‘exposed’ to the cold when the fabric touching it is wet. Not only that, but wet clothes also expose you to the risk of hypothermia, which is also a medical emergency in itself. That said, you should already prepare a change of clothes (your ‘Set B’) ready in your cabin, or call it a day and nurse the affected area with warm water and a blanket.
#4 Don’t Drink Alcohol
If you’re planning on skiing, skip the bourbon. Alcohol makes it more difficult for you to realize that you’re cold or feeling numb in certain areas, so you won’t be able to feel the signs of frostbite — and it may be too late when you do. Also, physical activities such as skiing that requires reflex and coordination don’t mix well. So you’ll be saving yourself from both frostbites and accidents by not drinking alcohol.
Frostbite should be in your list of ski injuries to avoid, so make sure that you follow these safety tips to guarantee that you get back home from your first skiing trip in one piece.