Winter sports can be a lot of fun, but you should be in good physical condition and properly dressed for the weather. Physical activity combined with cold weather can put a great strain on your body. It also is important that your equipment is in good condition.


A sled, especially if children are to use it, should have these safety features:

  • secure handholds,
  • no protruding rivets or sharp edges,
  • a bumper or guard over the metal front bar,
  • no split or splintered wood or plastic,
  • no bent metal parts,
  • sled runners that curve around to the top and connect with the side rails, and
  • sharp runners free from rust.

Follow these safety guidelines when sledding:

  • Look over the area where you will be sledding. Remove any debris from the slope and note the locations of any bumps. Know how to steer clear of ditches or trees.
  • Teach children to not roughhouse, push or shove others.
  • Before starting down a slope, make sure that, if persons are sledding in front of you, they are clear of your path. When you reach the bottom of the slope, move quickly out of the way.
  • When going back up the slope, stay out of the way of those coming down.
  • Know how to safely stop the sled or get off a moving sled in case of an emergency.
  • Do not sled on roads or near traffic, particularly on hills that end in a street.

Ice Skating

Whether you skate on an outdoor pond or at an indoor rink, keep safety in mind and make sure your skates fit well. Skates that are too loose can make it difficult to keep your balance. If they are too tight, they can interfere with circulation.

If you skate on a lake or a pond, take additional safety precautions:

  • Do not skate unless the ice has a uniform thickness of at least 4 inches.
  • Have rescue devices, such as a rope, ladder and blankets, on hand.
  • Do not skate alone.


When you buy ski equipment, check for these safety factors:

  • Be certain boots fit snugly but are not tight enough to interfere with circulation.
  • Purchase ski bindings at the same time you buy boots to avoid a mismatch.
  • If you are a beginner, use short skis and take lessons from a qualified instructor.

When on the slopes, follow these safety rules:

  • Never ski alone.
  • Give skiers below you the right-of-way.
  • Stop on the side of a ski run, not in the middle. Stay out of the way of skiers coming down behind you.
  • Wear bright colored clothing so other skiers can spot you easily.
  • Before passing another skier, shout "On your left" or "On your right."
  • On a lift or tow, carry your poles by the shafts.
  • If you fall getting off a lift or tow, get out of the way of skiers exiting behind you as soon as possible.
  • When getting off a tow, let go of the T-bar gently so it does not swing back and hit another skier.


As snowmobiling grows in popularity, it is important to keep in mind these safety factors. Before leaving

  • Check the fuel and oil levels. Keep in mind your return trip.
  • Make sure the headlights and taillights work.
  • Test the emergency stop switch.
  • Move the throttle to make sure it is not frozen in the "on" position and check the steering system to make sure it moves freely.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather. Wear a helmet. Goggles are a must to protect eyes from branches, thorns, snow and cold. Scarves are not recommended because they may get caught in the machinery.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to be back. Never go alone.

Once you start to ride, remember these safety rules:

  • Generally, it is unlawful to drive or operate a snowmobile on Illinois roadways. Contact the Illinois Department of Conservation at 217-782-6431 for complete rules regarding where a snowmobile may be operated.
  • Driving a snowmobile is similar to riding a motorcycle or bicycle: shift body weight to keep your balance. You also can use the throttle and brake to control the machine.
  • Be prepared for changing weather conditions.
  • Be careful on ice and travel at low speeds.
  • Do not travel on lakes or rivers without knowing the ice conditions. To be safe, there should be 8 inches of clear ice. It is best, however, to avoid snowmobiling on waterways all together.
  • If you are on ice that breaks, reach forward to the edge of the ice and pull yourself forward. Do not stand; roll yourself to firm ground.
  • Do not stop a snowmobile when it is pointing uphill because it may become stuck.
  • Be cautious going downhill. Keep the snowmobile under control and be prepared to stop.
  • Snowmobiles are not built to carry passengers. If you do have a passenger, both persons' feet should be kept on the running board. The person should lean with you when turning.
  • Use a rigid tow bar, never a rope or wire, to pull a person in a snowmobile sled. This will keep the sled from crashing into the snowmobile during a sudden stop or sharp turn.
  • Use the proper hand signals when turning left or right or stopping.
  • When riding at night, make sure lights are working, do not travel on unfamiliar ground and carry a flashlight or flare for emergencies.
  • Day or night, be alert for hidden wires.

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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