Safety experts are reminding winter sports enthusiasts to play safely this season, whether they’re out on the ice or snow.

The blast of winter weather has caught many people off-guard. Ontario Provincial Police said they responded to more than 274 crashes in a 24-hour period during the region’s first major snow storm. And a 25-year-old Ontario man died after slipping and falling into a tree during a tobogganing outing early Thursday morning

Ontario Safety League President Brian Patterson said people must remember that many popular winter activities such as tobogganing, skating, skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling come with a degree of danger.

“Essentially there’s risk inherent with all the winter activities,” he said.

Patterson said he’s noticed that with winter weather becoming more rare, people try to get in as much winter sport action as they can when ideal weather conditions exist.

“In the last few years, for sure, we’ve had shorter periods to take part in the activities,” said Patterson. “They want to get one more run or one more hour in.

“Speed is rarely your friend when doing something risky.”

Now, fresh from a winter storm that covered large parts of southern Ontario with a layer of snow, the Canada Safety Council has produced a series of safety tips for those looking to take a turn on tobogganing hills.

Before leaving home:

  • Inspect all equipment for cracks, sharp edges and broken parts.
  • Choose a toboggan or sled that is well-built and easy to control. Avoid saucers, carpets, inner tubes and homemade options that can spin out of control.
  • Bring along ski or hockey helmets, especially for young children.
  • Make sure winter scarves and accessories are tucked into coats, to prevent possible injury or strangulation.

When choosing a hill:

  • Avoid icy hills that may cause a loss of control.
  • Choose large, gently sloping hills with lots of room to level off and come to a complete stop.
  • Choose hills that are free of hazards such as holes, jumps, trees, fences, signs and parked cars.
  • Avoid hills that cross traffic.
  • Slide during the day or on well-lit hills.
  • Do not slide near frozen lakes or ponds, as the ice might not be firm.

When preparing to slide:

  • Kneel on the sled or sit with your feet pointing downhill.
  • Do not overload the toboggan or sled.
  • Wait until the path is clear before pushing off.
  • Children 5-years-old and younger should be accompanied by an adult.

When sliding:

  • If you have to get off quickly, roll to the side and do not use your hands or feet to try and stop the sled.
  • When getting of your toboggan, move to the side of the hill and stay out of the way of oncoming sleds.

With files from the Canada Safety Council