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Snowsports Guidance for Leaders

  • Planning
  • Equipment - Group Members
  • Equipment - The Instructors
  • Clothing
  • Group Size
  • Water Hazards

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council?s generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

Specifically, the following should be considered:

  • Prior knowledge of the location to be used should preferably be first hand, but if not, then it should be from a reliable source.
  • Flexibility in planning programmes to allow for last minute modifications or curtailment due to changing conditions and unforeseen circumstances.
  • Prior knowledge of the group; in particular, their experience and physical capabilities, including any relevant medical problems. Also, ascertaining any disabilities the group may have.
  • A weather forecast should be obtained before setting out. Refer to Appendix E.
  • A ski and access road report for the area. For all off-piste activity an avalanche report should also be obtained (included with most mountain and ski weather forecasts)
  • Awareness of changing conditions e.g. weather, snow, daylight hours, group well being.


As in all sports, people learn at different rates and groups should be organised in such a way that an individual can learn at his/her own rate without unduly impeding the progress of others.


Alpine Skiing

  • Skis should be an appropriate length and in good condition.
  • Ski bindings should be of the modern step-in type and must be adjusted by a suitably trained person in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Ski boots should fit well and should be appropriate to the skier’s ability level.
  • Ski poles should be an appropriate length.
  • Ski helmets must be worn by all users. Helmets must be properly sized, and correctly fastened and conform to EN1077:2007

Nordic Skiing

  • Skis should be appropriate for the type of skiing to be undertaken. Skis to be used for ski mountaineering and for touring above the tree line must have steel edges.
  • Bindings should be appropriate to the form of skiing and the nature of terrain used.
  • Brakes and Safety Straps - On piste, ski brakes or safety straps must be used. When touring, safety straps should be used according to the terrain.
  • Boots - For low level touring a lightweight boot can used, however in icy conditions or when operating at higher levels, a stiff mountaineering type of boot is desirable. Boots should always be comfortable and weatherproof and attention should be paid to guarding the feet against blisters.
  • Poles should be of an appropriate type and length, and in good condition. Adjustable poles are particularly suitable for touring
  • .Equipment Carried - Where appropriate, students should carry adequate spare clothing, food, drink, and waterproofs. Refer to Walking & Hillwalking chapters for further guidance.


  • The Board should be in good condition and of the appropriate length and design for the ability and stance of the rider.
  • Bindings should be appropriately adjusted for the skill level of the participants. It is important to provide left foot (regular) and right foot (goofy) forward bindings as appropriate. A retaining leash must always be worn. Particular attention should be paid to the condition of bindings on hired equipment.
  • Helmets must be worn as described for Alpine skiing.



The equipment an instructor chooses to carry or have readily accessible will vary according to a number of factors including:

  • the nature of the activity
  • the location
  • the time of year
  • the age and experience of the group
  • the aims of the session
  • the weather

Instructors should consider selecting from the lists below which are not necessarily exhaustive:

Alpine Skiing in a patrolled area

  • Spare clothing (including hat, gloves, goggles)
  • Small tool kit
  • Piste map
  • First aid kit
  • Ski file
  • Sun glasses/goggles
  • Sun cream
  • Mobile Phone (containing numbers of Ski Patrol office, group leader etc.,)
  • Wax

For low-level Nordic Skiing in remote locations which are not patrolled:

  • Spare clothing (including hat, gloves, goggles)
  • First aid kit
  • Sun cream
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Torch
  • Wax (Grip & Glide)
  • Survival bag
  • Hot drink
  • Sleeping bag
  • Repair kit (basket, bale, tip, screws)
  • Spare high energy food
  • Group shelter
  • Mobile Phone
  • GPS

It is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure that their group is adequately and appropriately clothed for the type of activity and the prevailing conditions. Instructors should make sure that each group member has a windproof and waterproof shell for full body cover, and that they have a warm hat and gloves.

The following ratios are maximums and should not be exceeded. In some instances it may be necessary to reduce this ratio further.

Alpine Skiing 1 instructor: 10 participants
Snowboarding 1 instructor: 8 participants

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.