Preventing Frostbite

Frostbite has been catching people unaware for a long-time. Because of frostbite, Hannibal lost most of his army while crossing the Alps in 218 B.C. Napoleon lost 50,000 soldiers due to frostbite and hypothermia while retreating from Moscow in the winter of 1812.  Despite our high tech clothing today we are still not immune from this relatively common winter injury Frostbite is the freezing of water within the skin and is experienced in varying degrees of severity. As always, prevention is the best medicine.  Here are some tips to help prevent frostbite during winter sports:


  • Eat frequent, high-energy snacks.  Bring on the gorp and the chocolate -- doctor's orders.

  • Avoid bad weather. (Ok, that's not always easy to do in New England!)

  • Wear clothes that wick perspiration away from your body.  Use layers of silk, wool or polypropylene, capilene, etc., and have a windproof layer that can be put on during down hills or when windy. Bring a hat.

  • Make sure ski or winter hiking boots are not too tight.

  • Avoid pressure points (i.e., no wrinkles in socks) or tight clothing.

  • Adjust layers as needed to avoid sweating and soaking clothes.

  • Keep hands and feet dry. Bring extra socks and mittens.

  • Mittens are warmer than gloves. If you need extra dexterity during cold weather, wear thin gloves under mittens, which can be kept on when removing the mittens to take pictures or adjust bindings.

  • Do not touch metal with bare hands. Try covering metal parts on cameras with tape.

  • After a cold night, snow temperatures can easily be 20 degrees F colder than the rebounding air temperatures.  Dress accordingly.

  • Consider using foot warming pads that can attach to the top of the boot toe.  Or use insulative booties over your cross country ski boots.

  • Prevent frostbite of your eyes by wearing sun glasses or goggles, particulary on long downhill runs or when skiing into the wind.