Oooh baby, it’s cold outside. While staying indoors in comfy slippers, under a blanket in front of a roaring fire sounds great, storm day skiing is the best skiing. Here are a few tips on how to stay warm and chase snowflakes around the mountain.
This especially goes for your hands and your head. I like to ski with a second (or third) pair of gloves in my jacket or pack, then change them out at each break. The same goes for the all-important head (read: radiator). While cold hands will make you uncomfortable, a cold head is downright unsafe. A warm head is a happy head, or so the saying goes. I use a combination of a helmet liner and a buff (you know those stretchy tubes that look like a cut off sleeve) to stay warm and protect from wind. You can usually turn a buff once or twice, but exhalation prevents us from keeping the buff completely dry. Luckily they fold down to next to nothing and can be stashed in a pocket, so it's easy to swap a wet buff for a dry one. I keep all my wet gear in my left pockets and dry stuff in right pockets. Never mix them up again!
Lots. Of. Breaks. Take this opportunity to dry out and warm up extremities. Many years (fine, decades) ago, I kept skiing in sub-zero temps on a powder day. Huge mistake. I literally cried when I took my frozen solid boots off and my frost-nipped toes felt warm air again. No worries, I had thought, since I didn’t feel cold. That is exactly the danger with frostbite: you don’t feel it happening. Therefore it is really important to head inside every hour or so and make sure toes and fingers are getting the blood flow they need. Plus, my stiff boots soften up a bit indoors, allowing me to ski even better when I get back on the hill. If I hadn’t skipped so many college physics classes to go skiing, I could more expertly explain the stiffening properties of plastic ski boots at different temperatures. But hey - I only had four years of college and chose to be an expert in skiing instead! Just trust me, cold boots are stiff and freezing boots are no fun.
Layering is always a smart choice, and on sub-zero days you won’t be taking layers on and off, but the way they are stacked is important. Here is my usual:
- Heavier baselayer - usually with a zipper and long arms with thumb loops
- Soft shell (these breathe really well and have pockets for phones, etc. to keep the batteries from dying)
- Shell - normally this is an outer layer, but here it works as an effective layer for stopping the wind
- Down puffy - minimum 650 fill, preferably with a ripstop fabric if you ski in trees. The name of the game here is to keep warmth in and wind out. With a puffy on the outside and breathable layers on the inside I can achieve both, and hopefully never get sweaty or cold. All these layers also offer up more pocket space for those extra gloves and headgear, as well as….
In colder temps, it is easy to get dehydrated since the weather doesn’t cause the thirst buds to kick in as much. The cure: hot fluids. The softshell I mentioned above not only holds my phone and some extra gloves/hats, but also two thermoses. I have two double-wall insulated models that zip into pockets really well and stay upright in my softshell. Coffee goes in one and the other is filled with either chicken soup or a similar broth. I usually run out before noon, so I have relied on Moonbeam and Last Chance Lodges, who both have great hot cocoa for afternoon breaks. Pro tip: Last Chance also has a fireplace to warm up in front of. Need something a bit, ahem, stronger? Honeycomb Grill and Thirsty Squirrel have you covered. Re-caffeination options also exist at the Stone Haus and Roundhouse. I mix up my break spots so it doesn’t get boring and makes me more inclined to actually stop, no matter how good the skiing.
Calories are Your Friend
You really cannot have enough. In order to keep you warm, your body will do one of two things: burn available calories or shiver. Let’s avoid the latter and load up. A dab of butter in coffee, stick-to-your-bones oatmeal and turkey chilli are my staples. And don’t worry, even if they think you are weird ordering a pat of butter with your coffee, you will have so many layers and face coverings on, no one will know it’s you!
Stay warm, my friends!