Skiing in the Wind
If you have been skiing for a few seasons then you have almost certainly encountered a windy day on the hill, and perhaps you already know that windy conditions can have a bigger influence on your snow day than most people tend to think.
Wind can impact visibility, make it challenging to stay warm, blast you in the face with snow and push you around as you ski down (or up) exposed areas. Let’s take a moment to look at how the wind can impact ski conditions and how you can be best prepared to handle it.
Even light wind can make a cold day colder – especially if you are sitting in an exposed chairlift.
What you can do: Make sure that you check the local weather forecast so you can dress appropriately. When deciding what to wear skiing, we always recommend dressing in layers, and when in doubt, throwing an extra layer into your ski backpack.
The forecasted wind chill, often described as the ‘feels like’ temperature, describes how much faster the human body loses heat due to conduction at a given air temperature due to the wind. If you want to know more about just how wind chill is forecasted check this out: Who, What, Why: What is wind chill factor? – BBC News.
To put into perspective just how significantly wind can affect your temperature, take a look at this wind chill table, brrrr: Wind Chill Chart (weather.gov)
Protect your Face and Eyes
Did you know that wind can actually damage your skin? Windy winter conditions tend to dry out our skin, especially exposed areas like the lips. You should be wearing sunscreen anyways, so make sure you don’t forget some chapstick with at least SPF 15 and make sure you stay hydrated.
A harsh cold wind can be really hard on the eyes – and no one really wants to ski with their eyes streaming because of the cold wind. As soon as there is any kind of precipitation there is the added risk of rain, snow and ice being blown into your eyes. Let’s be honest, this will happen anyways given that you will be skiing downhill at high speeds, but additional wind can make the strain on your eyes much worse.
What you can do: wear goggles! Goggles can protect your eyes from sun, snow and wind. Should the wind pick up enough to be blasting your face with snow, freezing rain or hail then you may be in trouble without them. There are lot of options available so it shouldn’t be hard to find the best goggles for you regardless of your price point or style preferences.
In extreme conditions, high wind can be quite disorienting. When visibility is low and snow is flying in your face, a harmless run can quickly become nerve-racking. People take the wrong run, are not sure where they are or have trouble finding the lift station more often than you would expect.
What you can do: make sure you know where you are at all times. Take a moment to check the resort map, note the name of the lift station nearest to your parking lot or starting point, and make sure you have arranged a meeting time and place with your companions. Being aware of your surroundings is common sense whether it is windy or not – but it can be a real help when visibility is limited, signs are difficult to read or your goggles are covered in snow or ice.
Know when to call it Quits
If the conditions are stormy enough to be a major safety concern, most resorts will close down the lifts and the ski patrol will make sure that all guests make it safely down the mountain. However, if you happen to be touring or backcountry skiing, the decision to bail before conditions become dangerous is all on you. While no one wants to cut a great day short, it is your responsibility to check the weather forecast and be prepared to call it quits if the wind conditions pose a safety concern.
Skiing in Windy Conditions
Perhaps the wind has picked up and you just want to make it back to the base or maybe it is a nice day but the wind is pushing your around. There are a few tips that can help you ski well in windy conditions and maintain good control:
- Stay low: a more aerodynamic position will give the wind less body surface to push against and will help you ski fast into a headwind or be less affected by side wind.
- Engage your core: be aware of keeping your hips and shoulders stable, square and facing the direction you are skiing in. This will help you stay stable and compact, and will help prevent strong wind from undoing your ski technique.
- Opt for runs located lower on the hill with more tree coverage, this will provide more visual contrast in case of low visibility as well as much more wind protection the higher, exposed slopes above the tree line.
For a few more tips mixed with some humor:
With so many top ski clothing brands offering excellent quality gear for any weather, there is no reason to let a cold, windy day stop you from having a great time skiing. Be prepared and if the wind forces you to take it slow or stick to easier runs, consider it a learning opportunity.
Stay warm and safe out there – whichever way the wind may blow!
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