Charlie Eustace, Pharos’ Educational Visits Adviser explains some top tips for ski trips!
As the winter settles firmly in, many ski enthusiast teachers take students on what may be for some a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. For others, it might be the beginning of a love of snowsports that continues into adulthood. Whilst it is clearly great fun, educational benefits will also include learning a new skill, getting a love of the outdoors, learning to face and overcome challenges and all the social skills associated with overseas travel and residential trips. But how can teachers make sure their planning gives a better chance of a safe, stress-free trip? Here are a few tips that hopefully serve as useful reminders.
- Consider attending a Snowsport England ‘Snowsport Course Organiser’ or ‘Alpine Snowsport Course Leader’ courses for teachers. Whilst not compulsory, these courses do provide valuable advice. It’s worth noting that they don’t actually qualify in ski instruction.
- Choose your ski trip provider carefully. If they don’t have an LOtC Quality Badge, use a provider checklist. There are many good quality operators who understand the schools’ needs and it makes sense to use them. Many are members of the School Travel Forum which provides added assurance.
- Check that travel insurance is suitable, which will normally be part of the package when booked through a tour operator. Know its exclusions and ensure students and parents are made aware if, for instance, personal property is not covered.
- Double check exactly what supervision is provided by the local ski school staff. Also ensure that the school’s own risk-benefit assessment covers any aspects that the tour operator’s might not, such as behavioural management and student downtime.
- Coach travel is probably the highest risk part of a ski trip. Use due diligence to find a reputable coach company and ensure at least one member of staff is awake and watching the driver at all times. In the event of driver fatigue, an alert teacher intervening and insisting on an unscheduled rest break can save lives – even if this delays the schedule.
- Evenings, when staff and students are relaxing, are another time of higher risk. Ensure supervision during evening activities such as swimming is sufficient, and that staff know where students are at all times. It makes sense for all staff to avoid the gluhwein or other aprés ski alcohol (and hopefully it goes without saying that students should not be drinking!).
- Ensure first aid and emergency arrangements are included in the planning. Highly qualified medics will be available on the slopes but again, for the journey and ‘down time’, suitable cover should be planned.
- Correct clothing and equipment is essential for a safe and happy trip. Parents and students should be given plenty of notice, with practical advice as to what to look for in sufficiently good clothing so they can shop around and find the most affordable items. Some retailers offer special discounts if the school orders items together.
- Get advice! Talk with other colleagues who have led ski trips and your EVC, plus other schools for tour operator references. If your school has access to an external adviser who is part of the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel, they will be able to give you further guidance, including on the National Guidance framework.
by Charlie Eustace FRGS, Pharos Response Educational Visits Adviser.
Charlie has been working in the educational travel, expedition and humanitarian sectors for over 10 years in a variety of operational planning and incident support roles. Extensively travelled, Charlie has led several school expeditions in the developing world and spent 6 months as a project officer for a major NGO in Bangladesh. She also spent two years working in the Royal Geographical Society’s education department which included advising on student fieldwork and expedition safety. She is a qualified Mountain Leader and Offsite Safety Management trainer, and has conducted various training courses in wilderness first aid and remote emergency care.
Charlie is a member of the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel and provides Pharos schools with safety and other school trip advice. She also has a keen eye for detail and is focussed on providing great customer care.