Being cold and wet on the slopes is miserable, and a waste of your hard earned holiday!
Weather conditions change rapidly in the mountains, so it’s important that you’re prepared and know how to keep yourself dry, warm and comfortable out there. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of every moment of your next snowy adventure.
- Check the weather
Know what the day ahead has in store so you can dress accordingly, but also plan your day. If a storm is coming in the afternoon, get out early and ski the upper slopes before it arrives and you’ll have to retreat to the trees or the lodge. If snow is forecast all day, pack some extra layers and pace yourself with regular breaks to warm up and dry out so you can enjoy the freshies all day.
Jane Bunn provides great snow forecasts.
- Dress for success
Regulating your temperature is key to a successful day out there. You’re going to be sitting on freezing chairlifts, then speeding downhill with wind and snow in your face, then sweating it up as you ski down or hike up, and then sit down on another freezing chairlift. It’s a recipe for hypothermia! Plus weather conditions can change rapidly, often with little notice. Here’s a few tips for dressing right so you can increase your time on the hill and decrease your time in the lodge.
Layering – Rule number one…cotton is sooo 1990. It holds moisture, leaving you soaking in your own cold sweat. Swap it out for a form-fitting polypro or Merino Base Layer that’s breathable and will transport moisture away from your body. This goes for everything that’s in direct contact with your skin, from your buff, top and bottoms, glove liners and socks. Next, add a mid layer that provides warmth via insulation, is breathable to continue to move moisture away from your body and lightweight to give you the flexibility to control your thermostat. Puffer jackets, synthetic fleeces and soft shells are great options.
Outerwear – This is the barrier between you and the elements, and will ensure you remain warm and dry all day long. If you wipe-out or fall onto the snow, your exterior layer will get wet quickly, and you’ll want to stay as dry as possible so you need a jacket and pants that are tough wearing and waterproof. Choose either a thin, lightweight, waterproof outer layer that is designed for movement and flexibility of layering underneath. Or an insulated jacket which is waterproof on the outside, but includes a layer of synthetic, wool or down insulation to keep you warm. There are numerous technologies that deliver waterproof & breathable fabrics – Goretex®, H2No®, MemBrain® and 37.5 just to name a few. Look out for the waterproof & breathable rating system. Anything above 20k/15k is good.
Accessories – Find a pair of gloves that are waterproof, insulating and form fitting so that your fingers can wiggle around and keep warm. On those bitterly cold days, try a pair of Merino glove liners and some hand warmers.
A helmet is great protection for your head, but it can also keep you warm and dry. Pair it with a balaclava or neck warmer for protection to your skin against numbness and frost bite. Keep one stashed in your pocket for when the chill sets in.
- Fuel your body
Skiing takes a lot out of you and your body needs calories to stay warm. So make sure you get a full breakfast, stay hydrated and eat warm and hearty food throughout the day. Whether its pizza, ramen or tartiflette make sure you reinvigorate your ski legs with some hot and hearty eats.
- Select your lifts carefully
Every resort has a range of lifts, vertical and shelter to choose from. In stormy weather, save yourself from blizzard whiteout conditions up high, and stick to the lower resort that is more likely to have shelter from the trees. Surface lifts or enclosed lifts can provide shelter from the wind and snow also, so study the trail map before you get out there, and head to the area that you can stay warm and have the most fun!
- Be aware of your circulation
We don’t all have great circulation, and when the weather is wild it’s easy to forget about our extremities, especially if you’re lucky enough to have your feet buried 2 foot under fresh snow!! Keep your arms and legs moving, even when you’re not skiing by swinging or rotating them and wiggling your fingers and toes. It might look a little silly, but it’ll keep you warmer and prevent stiffness.
It’s a good idea to check how tight your ski or snowboard boots are as it could be contributing to cold toes. Loosening them a little if you can will help your circulation.
Still feeling the cold? Choose a challenging run to get that heart rate up and keep the blood pumping.
- Take breaks
Hours of skiing or snowboarding on a particularly cold day can leave you feeling cold to the core. Quick breaks after one or two runs are a great way to keep your body warm and gear dry. After a short rest at a mid-mountain restaurant or hut you’ll be ready to hit the slopes again.
- Dry your gear
If you’ve done everything within your power to keep your gear dry, but it’s just not possible, then it’s going to be a day killer. Dry your gear quickly during breaks (hack: use the hand dryer in the bathroom) or back at the lodge as soon as you’re done for the day. Ski boots and gloves are the hardest to fully dry, but will be most critical for a good day tomorrow. Pull the liner out of the shell and leave them in proximity to a heat source, just be careful to not overly heat your footbed or shell as you’ll undo any work you’ve had done to you boots. Your own boot dryer is a very worthwhile investment. Don’t hesitate to swap out wet gloves and socks for dry ones during the day.