It might be cold outside, but on the wintry slopes you are at a higher risk from harmful UV rays than on your summer holidays! In this guide we will highlight the dangers of sun exposure on the slopes and provide some useful advice on how to stay safe this ski season.
At higher altitudes, i.e at the top of a Mountain, the air is thinner and cleaner so it less able to filter the harmful UV rays which cause sunburn.
The higher you get, the stronger the UV rays. For every 1,000ft above sea level the intensity of exposure increases by 5%. Multiply that by the altitude of your chosen ski resort and you could easily find yourself being exposed to 40%+ more intense UV radiation.
Snow is also highly reflective and on a bright, clear day can reflect as much as 85% of the UV radiation back towards you. In other words you are not only hit by UV rays from above but from below too!
UV radiation cannot be seen or felt but is very damaging to your skin. With this in mind, it is very important to make sure that you take the adequate precautions to limit damage from UV rays.
The sun is at its strongest at midday; skiing in the morning or late afternoon means you will avoid the sun when it is at its most harmful. Don’t let a cloudy day fool you into a false sense of security either, as the suns UV rays can still penetrate through the cloud.
Make sure you cover up any exposed skin where possible. Wearing a ski helmet, aside from the obvious protection from falls, can cover any exposed areas of scalp. Goggles or sunglasses will not only protect your eyes from sun glare but also protect the area around them. Remember that even when you’re not skiing, if you are outside you are still at risk so keep yourself covered as much as possible.
Apply sunscreen liberally to any exposed skin at least 30 minutes before heading onto the slopes. A minimum of SPF factor 20 is recommended but the higher the SPF the better. Make sure you get good coverage on your face, neck and ears. As the UV rays are reflected off the snow you can get burnt in unusual places, including under your chin and nose, so be thorough with your application. If you’re skiing without a helmet then apply to your parting and don’t forget your hands for when you remove your gloves.
Sun cream specifically for skiing will be extra moisturising to protect your skin against wind burn and the cold. If you can’t find ski sun cream, look for a sun cream that contains moisturising ingredients such as aloe vera.
Don’t just apply sun cream in the morning and forget about it. Falling snow (or falling in snow!) as well as sweat can wash off the sun cream. Take a small travel sized sun cream with you and apply when you can.
The skin on your lips is some of the most delicate on your body. It is much thinner than the rest of your skin and contains very little melanin, a natural pigment that helps protect against sun damage. When on the slopes it’s important to use a lip balm with SPF 15+ protection to protect your lips from harmful UV rays and stop them from getting dry and cracking.