Accidents can happen at any time to any member of a ski touring party and all members of the party must be able to provide First Aid to someone who has been injured. This isn’t just the leader’s responsibility - it may be the leader who has been hurt!. In the Alps, help can often be summoned quite quickly by mobile phone and delivered by helicopter; however this isn’t always the case – there may be no phone signal, or the weather may prevent helicopters from flying. A party must be prepared to be self-reliant. In remote locations this is obviously even more important.
Standard First Aid courses often assume that professional help can quickly reach the scene. This often isn’t the case whilst ski touring so a REC (Rescue Emergency Care) course geared to a mountain environment will be more appropriate.
The Eagle Ski Club normally runs a REC course every year or so (generally in the Autumn) – details are published in the Programme of UK Events. Similar courses are also provided by the Austrian Alpine Club and the BMC.
In order to keep the knowledge fresh, it is recommended that such a course is repeated every three years.
First Aid books relevant to ski touring
Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine by Drs Jim Duff and Ross Anderson
(published by Cicerone – Twelfth Edition, 2017 – third edition by Cicerone)
Outdoor First Aid by Katherine Wills
(published by Pesda Press – 2013)
Avalanche First Aid
Doctor and ESC member Catherine Mangham developed the ESC Avalanche First Aid card giving an easy to follow algorithm for companion rescue first aid in an avalanche situation (last revised 2018). It can be downloaded for printing here 2018 ESC Avalanche First Aid Algorithm
Doctor and ESC member Declan Phelan wrote this excellent summary of actions to take once you have dug out an avalanche victim. ESC Avalanche First Aid article 2018
High Altitude Sickness
A summary of the physiology, prevention, recognition and treatment of High Altitude Sickness is given in an article by Catherine Mangham in an article in the Eagle Ski Club Yearbook 2013.
Hypothermia and Frostbite
An article by Declan Phelan in the Eagle Ski Club Yearbook 2013 provides an overview of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of hypothermia and of frostbite.
Friction Blisters are by far the commonest medical problem in ski touring parties and unfortunately continue to limit or force abandonment of individual ski tours every season.
Prevention is undoubtedly the key and important strategies include:
- Well-fitting ski boots – worth spending time and money with an experienced ski touring boot fitter
- “Breaking in” you new ski boots – although modern ski boots can be worn straight from the box it is still important to get your feet used to them, by wearing at home and ideally on a few day tours before you commit to a hut to hut or remote tour.
- Direct blister preventative strategies include:
- Petroleum jelly: to reduce friction.
- Double socks: thin sock liner with low friction against the skin and a thicker wool sock with higher friction against the insole.
- Preventative taping: must have a very high coefficient of friction to stay in position.
All have their proponents and detractors, but it is best to find what works for you and to stick with it.
- Early intervention – Stop if you feel a “hot spot” developing and address the issue (e.g. adjusting buckles; adjusting socks; prophylactic taping or blister dressing) – far better to have a few minutes faff than to limit your tour.
Here is a link to an excellent article on Friction Blisters: Prevention and Treatment by Dr Suzy Stokes.