Cold Play: The Virtues of Skiing on a Cold Day

on January 3 | in Eldora | by | with 1 Comment

Ice covered trees in Steamboat.

Ice covered trees in Steamboat.

Don’t let diving mercury keep you indoors. You may be missing your best day on the mountain.

I once skied in at Stowe in Vermont in weather so cold my trapezius muscles were sore the next day from scrunching up my shoulders and shivering so hard. My friends and I skied exactly one run that day and called it quits. I really do love to ski when the sun is shining and the temps are mild.

However—however!—snow sports are, by nature, cold-weather endeavors. If it weren’t for the diving mercury, we wouldn’t have that lovely powdery surface to ski and ride on. What I’m saying is that skiers and snowboarders should embrace the cold. Put on your woolies and get out there.

“Put on your woolies and get out there.”

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” quipped Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who was the first person to cross Antarctica on foot and who circumnavigated the globe’s polar axis, a three-year, 52,000-mile expedition. And he summited Everest at 65. The man has a point.

A week ago, temperatures were slated to be in the neighborhood of minus 5 and 14 F. The temptation to stay home in front of the fire was fierce. I decided to brave the weather and head for Eldora. If Fiennes can walk across a continent in frigid temps, surely I could ski for a day, with a lodge and a cup of cocoa always at the ready.

A cold beautiful day at Eldora.

A cold but beautiful day at Eldora.

The night before, I laid out my puffy Polartec vest, my extra-thick neck Roxy neck gaitor (the lovely smelling one that’s infused with skin-soothing lotion), and what I like to call my fat pants (they are insulated, so they put on a good 10 pounds).

I charged up my Hottronic boot heater batteries—my husband calls them boot cheaters—and tucked my boots into my Athalon heated boot bag, so my boots would be as soft and warm as slippers when I pulled into Eldora’s parking lot. I loaded up my day pack with disposable hand warmers.

Indeed the day was cold, with temps hovering around 10 degrees and a mighty wind whipping up at random intervals. But I skied eight runs off the Corona lift before I stopped for a hot cup of coffee.

Here’s the great thing about skiing in the cold: You have the place practically to yourself. There are, indeed, a lot of fair-weather skiers out there, so on chilly days, the trails are blissfully empty. The people you meet on the chair are a hearty bunch, and you enjoy a certain camaraderie. We’re all facing this cold front together.

eldora_12_18_2016 cold (1)

“We’re all facing this cold front together.” (Snow gun induced) Rime at Eldora.

The snow can be perfect. The day before I skied Eldora, it had snowed a foot (my husband could tell you about that), and I was still finding untracked pockets of light dry snow. They don’t call it “cold smoke” for nothing. When it’s too warm, all the freshies turn heavy or crusty.

There’s beauty in a winter landscape that only comes with the right mix of meteorological inputs. When supercooled water combines with high winds and subzero temperatures, rime can form on the trees, turning them to fantastical snow ghosts. The blast of a snowgun on a cold night can create a manmade rime, too. Rippled patterns form in snow windswept overnight, and in the morning the snow crystals sparkle in the textured snow like diamonds.

I ran into a friend in the lodge who told me he always skis on the cold days, because in his mind, it’s a matter of paying it forward. In a Karmic twist, he figures, ski in the cold in January, and you’ll be rewarded with warm days in March. I don’t know if it really works that way. But who am I to mess with somebody’s view of the universe?

There’s also a sense of accomplishment to braving the weather. I was proud of having outwitted Mother Nature with good gear choices. Really, I was warm all day, cocooned in my fat pants and puffy vest.

Don’t get me wrong, though. When it’s bluebird and warm, I’ll still be skiing. And I’ll like it. But there’s something to be said for a cold day.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.”
Bill Bowerman

One Response to Cold Play: The Virtues of Skiing on a Cold Day

  1. Suzanne says:

    I loved this article and the content! It’s an excellent reminder of how to take advantage of great ski conditions despite the cold. Wish everything I read was full of such good advice and good writing skills.

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