Safety Tips for Pennsylvania Winter Sports Enthusiasts

Winter is still in full force, and according to Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania's beloved groundhog winter predictor, it will be around for at least another six weeks! That's good news for outdoor enthusiasts.

Pennsylvania offers a variety of outdoor winter activities for residents and visitors alike, including snowmobiling, ice boating, ice fishing, sledding, skiing and snowshoeing. And whether you're ice skating at Philadelphia's Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn's Landing, snow tubing the AvalancheXpress in York, or setting up a shanty and carving a hole on a frozen lake to fish, safety should always come first. Here are a few tips to make sure a safe, fun time is enjoyed by all.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Studies are ongoing as to which sport, between skiing and snowboarding, is more dangerous for participants. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) suggests that beginners take lessons, regardless of age. Studies have shown that the more experience a participant has in the activity, the lower the chances of injury or incident.

Photo by Rhys A. via Flickr

NSAA offers the following tips for skiers and snowboarders:

  1. Warm up first. Skiing and snowboarding are two sports that demand full body control, thus stretching out your muscles is a good idea before hitting the slopes.
  2. Know your limits. Swallow some pride and pass on your friend's dare to do a double axel flip in the air. Just because he can do it doesn't mean it's easy to do, especially if you're just beginning to learn the sport.
  3. Wear the proper equipment. Don't be afraid to go to niche ski/snowboard shops and ask questions.
  4. Always wear head, eye and sun protection.
  5. The key to fun, successful and injury-free skiing/snowboarding is to always stay in control. Know the terrain, conditions, and your equipment before taking your first ride.


Pennsylvania's snowmobile clubs enjoy nearly 2,500 miles of trails on private land. But if you are taking the family and kids out for a snowmobile excursion, know the precautions:

Photo by Great Scott via Wikimedia Commons

  • Children between ages 10 and 15 must earn a safety certificate before they operate a snowmobile in Pennsylvania, according to state law. This provides children with the knowledge to properly handle a motorized vehicle for their safety and the safety of others.
  • Drivers and passengers should wear a helmet and eye protection at all times.
  • Do not operate a snowmobile when under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Maintain a safe distance between you and other riders
  • Stay within controllable speed limits
  • Stay on designated snowmobile trails
  • Always ride with others
  • Most importantly (and obviously), use common sense

Ice Boating

Much like sailing a small boat in the summer, ice boats use a sail to coast across frozen waters. If you have your own boat, you are halfway there to enjoying the sleek winter activity. However, this type of outdoor activity demands more awareness and preparedness than boating during any other season. Be prepared for the following:

Photo by _mafiozo via Flickr

  • According to the Pennsylvania Boater Education Card, you may be required to get a Pennsylvania boater's license.
  • You may also be required to purchase a state park launch permit.
  • Ice boating is safe for children, as long as they and their supervisors pay attention to safety precautions. Boaters should be equipped with helmets and eye goggles, along with winter wear.
  • Boaters should be equipped with ice picks, a life jacket, and a whistle in case of an emergency.



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