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Winter Sun Protection for Skiers

Skiers Often Fall Down on Sun Protection, Survey Finds

December 7, 2010

Most experienced winter sports enthusiasts know that they need to use sun protection to protect themselves from UV radiation, which can lead to skin cancer. Researchers, however, have discovered there are as many variations in UV levels at ski resorts as there are inconsistencies in the way skiers and snowboarders use sun protection.

Between 2001 and 2003, researchers surveyed sun protection behavior among almost 4,000 adult guests at 32 ski resorts throughout the United States and Canada. They also gathered data on weather conditions, snow cover and UV radiation at each resort.

The results, published in the Archives of Dermatology, found that UV radiation was highest around noon, on days furthest from the winter solstice (December 21), and under clear skies. Latitude and altitude, however, had only a moderate impact on UV radiation levels, contrary to the researchers' expectations.

The skiers' approach to sun protection had little in common with actual UV radiation. Most guests applied sunscreen more often on sunny days, but were less concerned on cloudy days, even though UV levels can be significant on cloudy days, especially around midday.

The researchers also discovered that skiers were more likely to wear protective clothes on cloudy days, when UV levels are somewhat lower, than on clear days. Additionally, as winter turns to spring and UV levels increase, ski resort guests tend not to take additional precautions against UV radiation, unless temperatures are relatively warm—and temperature is a weak predictor of UV levels.

"Outdoor recreation venues should consider publishing UV forecasts to help guests make informed sun safety decisions," the study authors wrote. "However, UV forecasts do not always promote increased sun safety because individuals continue to rely on 'rules of thumb' like associating high UV with clear, not cloudy, days, and warm, not cold, days, regardless of season or time of day."

Article Continues Below

When you go skiing or snowboarding, make sure to follow these sun safety tips from the study:

  • Apply broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen 30 minutes before hitting the slopes, and reapply it after 2 hours, whether it's sunny or cloudy.
  • Wear sunglasses, head cover (such as a brimmed hat) and gloves. Also protect your ears, neck and face.
  • Finally, apply lip balm with sunscreen.

Source: Peter A. Andersen et al. "Environmental Cues to UV Radiation and Personal Sun Protection in Outdoor Winter Recreation." Archives of Dermatology. 2010;146(11):.

Physician-developed and -monitored.
Original Date of Publication: 07 Dec 2010
Reviewed by: the Editorial Staff at
Last Reviewed: 05 Dec 2010
Last Modified:07 Dec 2010

Skin Cancer, Winter Sun Protection for Skiers reprinted with permission from
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