Mountain Blog

Teaching & Coaching in the Cold

Nancy Story - Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Crystal Snowsports instructor and veteran racing coach  Chris Fisher offers these tips for teaching kids when it's COLD outside:

It’s been a fantastic winter, with over 200 inches of snow.   But with all this snow, there’s often been the issue of extremely cold temperatures, even as spring approaches. (A high of 15 degrees was forecast for March 12th!)

As ski instructors and coaches,  weather can play a major role in how we approach our lessons and training sessions, especially when dealing with children.  This winter, despite temperatures well below zero with wind chill, I’ve noticed that in general, kids are quite resilient.  If they are excited to pursue a task and are having fun, there’s not too much that can dampen their spirits.  That said, as instructors and coaches, we are responsible for their safety and well-being.  Regulating body temperature is harder for children.  With extremely cold temperatures, we have to constantly monitor them and be aware that they may be moving toward hypothermia without even noticing they’re cold yet.

 Keeping our students warm means keeping them moving and active, and taking more warm-up breaks with less time on the hill in-between.  We have to be aware of any exposed skin (primarily cheeks and noses) and watch for signs of frostbite.  Fingers and toes are at the tips of the extremities, so they are the body parts that will be affected first by the cold.  Hand warmers are always a great idea.  Socks and gloves need to be dry when first put on,  and dried at night.  Thin socks (somewhat counter-intuitively) keep feet warmer by allowing better blood flow to the toes.  Layers are another effective shield against the cold.  A warm core will pump warm blood throughout the body.  Goggles protect the eyes from wind and snow, while also providing relief for the covered parts of the face.  Neck gators are great for keeping the wind off the neck and lower parts of the face.  They’re easy to adjust and are an inexpensive addition to any cold weather wardrobe.  Helmets are a must at ALL times, but they’re also warmer than knit hats.  Heat loss occurs fastest from the head, so keeping the head safely covered is like putting a lid on a frying pan:  the heat index rises rapidly and stays longer.

Finally, we coaches and instructors need to remind students of the importance of proper nutrition and hydration.  The colder it is outside, the harder the body works to maintain a constant temperature, so it will burn calories faster and use up water stores faster.  Eating and drinking more often helps stoke the internal fires that will maintain body heat.

It’s been a cold winter this season, but a properly prepared student can still enjoy snow sports.  I am inspired every day by the excitement and anticipation I see in my students - and when it’s way below zero, a happy student is a warm student!


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