First-Aid Kits: What do you need and why?

From slicing your finger open with the sharp edge of your board, to smashing it while closing the sissy bar on the chairlift, at one point or another, most snowboarders experience some sort of minor injury while riding. What’s surprising, though, is that most people don’t even carry basic first-aid supplies with which to treat a minor injury, let alone a serious one. To be properly prepared is easy; a backpack first-aid kit doesn’t take up much space, and every snowboarder should carry one. Freeriders especially should never go without one. Even if you don’t need it for yourself, your riding partners will be more than grateful in the event that they need to be treated.

Backpack First-Aid Kit
A basic first-aid kit should contain the following items:

An Emergency Rescue Blanket
Its reflective surface helps to conserve body temperature and protects against cold, wind, rain, and snow. You can also use it to build a simple emergency shelter. The reflecting surface is easy to see and helps rescuers find injured persons. In case of an emergency, wrap the blanket first around the victim’s legs, then cover the body, leaving the head uncovered.

Triangular Bandage
A very useful item for safely immobilizing injured hands, elbows, or shoulders. In the photo, Reto Lamm shows how to use the triangular cloth correctly. The longest ends of the triangle are directed toward the center of the body, while the point is positioned near the elbow. Tie both ends of the long side behind the neck. Better yet, try wrapping the end that lies directly on the body underneath the armpit of the uninjured side, across the shoulder, and then tie it to the other end behind the victim’s neck.

Elastic And Gauze Bandages, Gauze Pads, Various Band-Aids, Disinfectant
These items are basic equipment for treating all sizes of cuts and abrasions. Small superficial cuts or abrasions have to be disinfected and covered with an appropriate-size Band-Aid. Bigger, superficial wounds have to be disinfected and covered with a gauze pad and fixed in place with a gauze or elastic bandage. Deep and heavily bleeding wounds require immediate medical treatment. To stop the bleeding, a so-called pressure bandage has to be applied. Cover the wound with a rolled-up and doubled pad. With your hand flat, press the pad onto the wound for a few minutes, then fix it firmly with gauze bandages. If the bleeding soaks the bandage immediately afterward, don’t take it off¿instead dress another bandage over the first one. A word of caution¿cuts from the sharp edges of boards can be worse than they look because tendons deep inside the wound may be affected. Be especially cautious when, after a cut on the hand for instance, one of the fingers cannot be stretched or bent. In this case, you must immediately see a doctor! Rusty edges or dirt in the wound increase the risk of contracting tetanus, which can lead to lockjaw and other unpleasant side effects. Most people are regularly vaccinated against tetanus, but if this isn’t the case, immediate inoculation after an edge cut is required. The protection given by such a vaccination lasts around ten years and should be renewed before it expires.

Scissors are used for cutting Band-Aids and bandages and, in case of emergency, for cutting open garments.

Depending on where the accident happens, cries for help might not be heard, and shouting for help over a longer period of time can be very tiring. The penetrating sound of a whistle is easy to hear and less strenuous. Everybody should know and use the Alpine distress call, in case of an emergency, which consists of the same signal or noise (e.g., whistling, light signals, et cetera) repeated six times in one minute. The answer is similar¿the same signal, repeated three times in one minute.

On The Hill With A Cell Phone
Carrying a cell phone on the slopes used to be viewed as snobbish. But in the case of an emergency, it can be useful. TToday, ten percent of all emergency calls in Alpine regions are made via cell phones.

Dr. G. Ahlbäumer, better known as Dr. George, is an orthopaedic surgeon at the well-known Klinik Gut in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Apart from surgery, he specializes in injury prevention. You can e-mail Dr. George directly at