With slippery roads and risky driving conditions, you might assume winter is the most stressful season for a personal injury lawyer who worries about everything!
But born and raised in Southern Ontario, I think that winter is actually my favourite time of the year.
I love everything Canadian winters have to offer; particularly the recreational activities!
If you have a young family like I do, you might be itching to introduce your kids to different outdoor activities; at the same time, you might be concerned about the safety risks that follow—especially in the cold, icy conditions.
Today we’ll go through my top 3 winter activities and how to enjoy them safely so you and your family can do the same:
As Canadians, it’s in our blood to get out there and enjoy the ice, whether it’s a leisurely skate or an old-fashioned game of ice hockey.
For me, there’s nothing more enjoyable than a family outing to the local ice rink. But recently, I ran into some issues when taking my son to his first skating lesson.
The ski helmet I brought for him—although CSA approved—was not approved for skating.
As it turns out, there are different safety features and approval processes for hockey and skating helmets vs. skiing and biking helmets.
It was an ironic lesson to learn considering I’m a personal injury lawyer, but an important lesson nonetheless.
If you plan on taking your family to the skating rink this season, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:
- Dress warmly and always wear gloves to protect your hands if you fall
- Helmets must be CSA-approved and fit for the chosen activity
- Skates should be sharp, not rusty or dull
- Encourage your kids to learn how to fall properly to avoid injuries
- Skate in the same direction as everyone else on the ice to avoid collision
- Children should never skate alone
While snowmobiling is less common in high-traffic cities like Hamilton, it’s not uncommon for families to head out to Blue Mountain or the cottage up north to enjoy recreational snowmobiling.
If you’ve never been on a snowmobile, I highly recommend it—the rush is like no other! However, you must keep in mind that operating any type of vehicle comes with responsibility:
- Make sure your insurance is up to date
- Check the weather forecast before going out. If it’s heavily snowing, you might want to reconsider
- Children and teens under age 16 should not operate snowmobiles
- Children under the age of 6 should never ride as passengers, as it takes strength to hold on tight for a long period of time, which can be hard to do
- All snowmobile passengers should wear helmets that meet Canadian standards
- Wear well-insulated protective clothing including goggles, waterproof snowmobile suits and gloves, and rubber-bottomed boots
- Carry a small first-aid kit in your jacket, snowsuit or snowmobile, along with a cell phone and emergency flares
- Always make sure someone knows where you are and when you plan to return
- Travel in groups of two or more, and only on marked trails
- Never drink alcohol or use non-prescription drugs before or while operating a snowmobile
- Have fun (that’s a given!)
Tobogganing is my #1 favourite recreational winter activity, which is why I wrote a blog last year on the recent ban in Ontario cities.
Before the ban took place, I would take my kids to the park and let them toboggan to their hearts’ content; but now, taking them to a designated “Sled-In” is my only option if I want to obey the law and avoid a potentially hefty fine.
What most people don’t realize is Hamilton has had an out-right tobogganing ban for 15 years; however in 2013 the city was ordered to pay $900,000 to a citizen after he suffered a spinal injury while tobogganing.
Personally I don’t think banning tobogganing is the answer. In reality, people will continue to take the risk, especially when there’s no strict monitoring system in place.
Whether you head to a designated Sled-In or perhaps find some runs outside of the city altogether, there are a number of safety tips to consider:
- Always toboggan feet first, in a sitting/crouching position—never laying down or face-first on your stomach
- Wear a helmet (this is especially important for younger kids who don’t have as much experience or control)
- Never toboggan on any hill by a lake until the ice has been tested by the town’s fire department
- Try to sled after a big snowfall. Older snow is more likely to be icy, which could lead to slips, falls and crashes
- Never add extra wax or grease to your toboggan beforehand (Remember: Daredevil behaviour comes with dangerous consequences—and a potential trip to my office!)
- As soon as you reach the bottom of the hill, move to the side to avoid getting struck by other tobogganers
Although Hamilton is out of the question, there are a number of fantastic, safe and fun spots to go sledding in the area. I encourage you to get out there with the kids and enjoy what the season has to offer!
What’s your favourite recreational winter activity? Whatever it may be, I hope you have fun and practice safety this season!