FROSTNIP IS THE COMMON TERM for first-degree frostbite. It’s characterised by one’s skin turning pale or blue and feeling cold to the touch. If one stays out in the cold with these symptoms the skin may begin to feel cold to the touch and to tingle. The tingling can turn into quite severe pain and needs some simple first-aid. That first-aid generally means getting out of the cold and rewarming the affected areas. Failure to do this can result in moving through further stages of frostbite occasioning very serious tissue damage with consequential grave results.
It was on a frigid late December afternoon that I took to one of the outdoor skating rinks of the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta for a skating session. The rink was deserted apart from myself and whilst very cold indeed, was welcoming under the fairy lights and seasonal music emanating from an outdoor sound system.
Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada
It was quite heavenly, the cold air icily refreshing my face as I traversed the wide open spaces of the rink, accompanied only by the familiar sound of my skate blades cutting sharply and crisply into the ice as I turned this way and that.
What could possibly go wrong?
Outside the skate-changing shack next to the ice was a handily-placed thermometer which I glanced at a couple of times when passing. The temperature, already very cold, was dropping slowly. I was warm though, with a fleecy top, ski pants and gloves and working up a head of steam on the ice.
Moraine Lake, Banff, Alberta Canada
Crystal Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada
I finally ended the session in the darkness, apart from the pretty lights of the rink and glided slowly to a halt at the shack, sat and began to remove my skates to change to shoes and take the short walk by the picturesque Bow River. Back to the warmth and a hot drink in the plush hotel.
As anyone who skates will identify, it takes but a few minutes to complete this procedure and I sat for a few moments afterwards admiring the wonderful and peaceful scene in front of me. I noted the outdoor thermometer registering at –28C.
It was only then that I began to feel the tingling in my fingers, moving into my hands. My first experience of frostnip. Walking ever more rapidly back to the hotel, the pain actually began to feel quite intense, in fact it was very painful indeed. I’d had my hands out of the ski gloves for only a few brief minutes but it was long enough.
Breaking into a run back to the hotel room and slightly confused by the sudden pain after feeling relatively comfortable, my partner of that time, a Canadian native quickly ran the hot taps in the bathroom and stuck my aching hands underneath them. There I stayed for the next thirty minutes until the pain began to subside.
Two pairs of gloves were in evidence for the next outdoor skating session, that time on an amazing frozen lake.