Even in the depths of winter, you’re still not safe from the sun – especially at the snow. Protecting yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important in alpine areas or near reflective surfaces such as snow.
Overexposure to UV radiation can cause skin damage and sunburn, which may increase your risk of skin cancer. The risk can be higher in alpine regions with significant snow cover even when conditions are cold or overcast. Most skin cancer can be prevented if the appropriate measures are taken.
The Cancer Council Victoria recommends protecting your skin and eyes at the snow. SunSmart Manager Sue Heward explains that “Ultraviolet (UV) is more intense at higher altitudes because there is less atmosphere to filter the UV rays. At Hotham, there is almost 10 per cent more UV than at sea level”. Sunscreen and eye protection are therefore as essential as your hat, gloves and warm clothing when visiting the snow. Because the snow can reflect as much as 90 per cent of the sun’s harmful UV rays, "skiers and snowboarders can be exposed to a double dose of UV - directly from the sun and indirectly when it is scattered and reflected by the snow” advises Ms Heward.
As such, it is highly recommended to adhere to the following tips for sun protection in the snow.
SunSmart’s tips for sun protection in the snow
- Apply SPF30+, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside to any part of your body that is exposed to the elements.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours - keep a small tube of sunscreen in your jacket pocket or bag.
- Don't forget your lips! Apply lip balm with SPF protection frequently.
- Protect your eyes with goggles or wrap around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard.
- Follow these recommendations each time you go out into the elements, even on cloudy or overcast days.
The SunSmart UV Alert is available at sunsmart.com.au, bom.gov.au/uv or as a free iPhone app and incorporates UV (directly from the sun and reflected) for all major ski resorts in Australia.
For more information on vitamin D, UV and sun exposure recommendations, visit sunsmart.com.au or download the "Sun Protection at the Snow" guide from SunSmart: