Downhill skiing and snowboarding

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are generally conducted within alpine resort areas.

The equipment used has a smooth base which effectively makes uphill movement impossible without the help of mechanical lifts.

Downhill (or alpine) skiing involves the use of skis, which have smooth bases and can slide both forwards and backwards. The boots are sturdy, providing solid ankle support, and are attached to the ski with a toe and heel binding, both of which have adjustable release mechanisms to reduce the risk of injury in the event of a fall.

Telemark equipment may be similar to downhill, but the heel of the boot is free from attachment to the ski.

Snowboarding involves the use of a board that can slide both forwards and backwards. The boots are sturdy, providing solid ankle support, and are attached to the board with a non-releasable binding. Snowboarding skills are similar in many respects to surfing or skateboarding.

The terms ski and skiing are used in this page to describe downhill skiing, snowboarding and telemark skiing in resort areas.

Where snowboarding and skiing activities are planned outside resort areas, staff must also follow the guidelines for cross-country skiing activities.


Resort areas - are permanent Crown land reserves managed by an Alpine Resort Management Board with some or all of the following features:

  • accommodation
  • professional ski instruction schools
  • marked and/or groomed ski trails
  • medical service
  • search and rescue facility
  • ski patrol service
  • some type of skier lift.

Non-resort areas - are beyond managed resort boundaries where few if any resources may be available, for example, there may be no ski patrol, road clearing or access to immediate medical services.


Alpine environments

The alpine environment is generally understood to comprise the landscapes found above 1200m and covered by winter snow, although snow can fall at any time of the year and severe snowstorm conditions can deposit snow down to 800m or lower. These landscapes include the forested sub-alpine zone up to the tree line and then the true alpine zone above.

Snow and weather conditions can change with location and over time. These changes may be rapid and drastic, with differences experienced in and out of tree cover, on different slope aspects, and at different times of the day. Environmental conditions can be extreme, variable and unpredictable.

Vegetation loss or damage, which is influenced by our behaviours and the activities we conduct alpine areas, can be rapid and may persist for many seasons. Soil exposure because of human intervention can be permanent in some situations and should be avoided.

When preparing for downhill skiing and snowboarding, consider ways to minimise the environmental impact of the activities.


Due to the unique nature of each location, a specific assessment of suitability should be made prior to the trip.

Your choice of location should be based upon the recent and first-hand knowledge of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff. Where this is impractical, planning and supervising staff should be thoroughly familiar with the general characteristics and conditions found in similar locations, and have consulted with people who can supply recent and first-hand knowledge of the locations being considered.

When assessing the suitability of a location, consider:

  • the potential to support your educational objectives
  • the level of access to the resources, services and facilities that you need or would like to use. These might include campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
  • the level of access to communications and external assistance, in the event of an emergency, or extreme weather conditions. The more effectively remote your location is, then the more self-contained and self–reliant your group must be
  • the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties.

Contact with relevant authorities should be made, in order to access up-to-date management information, and to determine any access and permit requirements.

These authorities may include:

Groups need to be aware that extreme weather conditions may develop prior to or during the proposed trip. Staff should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the activity at any time.

It is important to distinguish between resort and non-resort locations because the level of services will vary.

When selecting downhill skiing and snowboarding locations, consider:

  • skiing ability of students
  • suitability of the terrain for the group
  • availability of appropriate hire equipment if required
  • fitness of students.

Your communication strategy should enable you to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.

  • Choose communication equipment based on current communication technology.
  • Develop a communication strategy for the group during the program and to enable communication with outside parties including the school and emergency services.
  • Be aware of the limitations of your communication strategy.

Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the program and on the day the program commences. If the program extends overnight, monitor and assess the weather throughout and based on that information access daily weather forecasts and warnings.

Weather conditions can change rapidly. Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at anytime.

Weather warning telephone services:

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings: 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service: 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Mountain Information Line: 1902 240 523

These telephone numbers may be useful to have available on your program.

Web links:


The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered.

Vehicles used to transport students must comply with VicRoads registration requirements.

  • Drivers must comply with all licensing requirements.
  • Equipment carried inside vehicles must be securely stowed.
  • Students must be supervised by a minimum of one adult, in addition to the bus driver, during travel.

Drivers of vehicles with up to and including 12 seats (including the driver) require a current drivers license.

Drivers of vehicles with 13 or more seats (including the driver) require a current license appropriate for the vehicle and must:

In circumstances where a teacher or staff member is to drive a vehicle transporting students, the program should allow for them to have adequate rest prior to driving consistent with the national driving hours regulations.

Hazardous areas

Buses with a capacity greater than 12 seats entering prescribed hazardous areas during the declared snow season must have an annual hazardous areas inspection and a current certificate. The driver must also hold a current Hazardous Areas Authority.

The driver must also carry the required equipment for hazardous areas. Information about Victorian Hazardous Areas requirements can be obtained from VicRoads, including information specific to bus travel in snow fields.


Student skills

Planning for activities should begin with an assessment of students’ current knowledge, skills and experience in snow environments.

First time skiers and beginners must undertake ski lessons to receive competent instruction in basic skills, taking into account factors such as snow conditions, weather, terrain and the progress of students.

Students must be instructed in the safe use of all ski equipment and taken through a recognised progression of skills on appropriate terrain. These skills include, yet are not limited to sidestepping, basic snow plough falling safely and getting up effectively. For novice groups, groomed trails of beginner standard are appropriate for introductory sessions. Competent instruction will include information about snow conditions, weather and terrain, and implications of changing conditions.

The instructor should ascertain the previous experience of each student.

Instructional staff must brief students on:

  • equipment, clothing and footwear that is suitable for the activity and location
  • safety measures appropriate to control risks associated with the activity and the environment
  • minimal environmental impact techniques relevant to the activity and location
  • historical and cultural considerations relevant to the activity and location
  • activity scope and boundaries
  • communication and communication signals
  • relevant terminology.
  • a summary of the emergency plan, including methods of emergency communication
  • management of group on the snow
  • expected weather conditions and what this means for the activity
  • The Alpine Responsibility Code specifically
    • the importance of always skiing in control and within ability
    • lift use and riding procedures when appropriate

Preparation should also include supporting the mental health and well-being of students. This is as important as physical preparation.


Equipment, whether hired, borrowed or owned by the school or students, must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity.

Eye protection

All students must wear sunglasses or goggles to protect their eyes from glare off the snow, which even on cloudy days can lead to snow blindness. Sunglasses complying with Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1067) for sunglasses will provide the best UV protection. They prevent at least 95% of UV radiation from reaching the eyes.

First aid kits

First aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.

Hand protection

Gloves or mitts to prevent sunburn, frostnip and abrasions while skiing must be worn.


For downhill resort skiing and snowboarding, helmets must be worn by students and staff.

Helmets designed and approved to BS EN 1077 (Specification for helmets for alpine skiers) must be used. For more information on helmets for skiing see the SNELL Memorial Foundation

Skis and poles

Skis and poles should be matched to the skills and experience of each student and the type of ski experience.

Ski boots and bindings

Boots must fit comfortably, be appropriate to the nature of the skiing experience of each student and bindings must match the skis being used. Ski binding release settings should only be adjusted by qualified or experienced staff.


An all round free-riding board is best, and should stand roughly between chest and nose height. Boards should be wide enough to accommodate the rider's foot. Alpine or race boards should be avoided unless used by a very experienced rider.

Snowboard boots and bindings

Soft boots, which allow easy flexion of the ankle, are advisable. Plastic or hard shell boots should be avoided, particularly for beginners.

A basic two-strap binding with high back support is best to help control and reduce fatigue when riding on the heel edge. The binding should have adjustable stance widths and angles. Step-in bindings are not recommended because most have no high back support and are often difficult for students to operate on steeper slopes or when the bindings are filled with ice and snow.

All snowboard bindings must be fitted with a safety leash that attaches to the riders boot or around the leg.

Common protective equipment includes helmets, wrist guards, padding and back braces.

Wrist guards

Snowboard riders must wear protective wrist guards due to the high incidence of wrist injuries.


Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against extreme and variable weather conditions. Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the activity, the environment and the season.

To protect against sunburn use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Further information can be found at SunSmart.

Sun Protection is required when the UV Index is above 3. For further information see Sun and UV Protection.

For cold conditions encountered in snow activities, students and staff should have a change of clothing available. Clothing for snow activities should allow participants to remain warm even when wet and should be worn in layers with inner, insulating layers and outer windproof and waterproof layers.


Staff and students must be easily identifiable.

Staff must determine the most suitable system/s of identification, based on the assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken and the age and number of students.



Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the program. All staff members must be endorsed by the principal.

All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the Working with Children Check

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department of Education or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher present must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructing staff member about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If the teacher is not the designated instructor he/she is to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.

Any staff member with a known medical conditions that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition. Issues of confidentiality and privacy will be involved in any such disclosure.

Experience and qualifications

Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and the activity environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.

The designated downhill skiing or snowboarding instructor/s must have one of the following:

  • an Australian Professional Snowsport Instructors Level 1 Instructor qualification for the discipline they are instructing
  • equivalent documented training and experience from another training provider or education institution
  • equivalent documented experience in lieu of certification/accreditation.

The designated assistant to the instructor must:

  • have experience in the activity at the level being offered to students
  • be able to assume a supervisory role during the activity
  • have the ability to participate competently in emergency response procedures
  • have conferred with the instructor on the safety requirements of this role.

Documentation of staff qualifications and experience (doc - 151kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience in lieu of qualifications.


Supervision is a critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.

A minimum of two staff members must be present for each activity, one with responsibility for activity instruction and the other able to assist the instructor.

The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratio that must be used for downhill skiing and snowboarding.

(Note: Students not directly involved in downhill skiing or snowboarding, must be supervised separately with a minimum staff student ratio of 1 to 10.)

Staff numbersStudent numbers

Downhill skiing (day activities only)




Up to 16

17 - 24

25 - 32

Snowboarding (day activities only)




Up to 16

17 - 24

25 - 32

It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on:

  • age, maturity and gender of students
  • ability and experience of students
  • individual needs
  • dynamics of the student group
  • experience, qualifications and skills of staff
  • location conditions.

Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.

The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the principal as part of the excursion approval process. Staff members will supervise students according to that strategy.

Informed consent

The school must receive informed consent from parents or guardians that their child may participate in adventure activities.

Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:

  • the educational purpose of the activity
  • the nature and details of the activity
  • the supervision strategy
  • other information deemed relevant by the school or by parents/guardians.

Informed consent must be given in writing, including signatures, by parents or guardians.

First aid training

At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.

Staff members must consider carefully the nature and location of the excursion as well as the medical history of the students to determine the level of first aid training required by staff. For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present. See: Excursion Support – First Aid


Sample RisksSample Controls

Ability and fitness of students

Select a venue appropriate to the skill level of all students in the group.

Crowded slopes, particularly in resort areas, diminishing the ability to supervise effectively

Communicate boundaries to students including any ski runs out-of-bounds.

Establish emergency meeting points.

Confirm with staff the supervision strategy.

Collision with solid objects

Clear instruction and supervised practice of stopping and speed control techniques.

Provide a clear brief on speed control and falling over safely to prevent collision.

Collision with other skiers

Clear instruction on ‘skiers responsibility code’ and clear direction to not ski in a close group in potential collision situations such as on downhill slopes.

Exposure to cold temperatures and wind

Pre-activity safety briefing on clothing and food required.

Clothing to be checked at commencement as appropriate to the activity and able to accommodate likely weather changes.

Monitoring of weather conditions throughout the activity and being prepared to cancel modify or relocate the activity as required.

Separation from the group

Clear instruction to students on group management strategy.

Regular checks of group number by staff.

Brief to all students at the start of the activity on the procedure to be followed if a student is separated from the group.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Broad spectrum sunscreen available for student use throughout the day.

All students to wear sunglasses or goggles to protect their eyes from glare off the snow.


General resources