If you love skiing and riding, chances are you love a good storm day. Crowds tend to be less, the riding is often great and if you’re lucky, there are free refills! I’m a sucker these days and there is a part of me that loves being out in the elements. There are a few things that can make or break this experience and turn it from fun, to a total downer. Here are some suggestions for you to have a successful day on the hill even when it’s nuking snow!
If you know the resort well, the little hidden stashes and your favorite areas to ride you will have a MUCH better experience.
I have had some of my most memorable storm skiing days at smaller resorts with less vertical, acreage and snowfall compared to the bigger ones. All because I knew the lay of the land and had less concern on visibility where I was headed.
Wearing the right gear is key to you being able to stay out on the mountain longer so you can enjoy the refills. I’m arguably the coldest human on the planet so I like to stay warm. My go-to jackets from Stio on storm days are the Shot 7 and Doublecharge. Both insulated GORE-TEX jackets that keep me warm and dry. I would much rather be too hot than too cold but if you run warm you may want to consider other jackets in their collection.
If you have a shell (no insulation), you will want to invest in some good baselayer options. Remember, it’s easy to swap them out depending on how cold it is. Top layer stays the same and you can adjust accordingly underneath.
Insulated pants and a jacket are another step that will keep you toasty. For base layers, I love the Stio Fernous Insulated Knicker. They keep my legs warm and the cut high on the calf doesn't mess with having to manage material in your boots. If you’re riding with pants that are insulated you might consider a traditional layering piece to keep from overheating. Combos of base layers and insulated jackets are endless. I like to go with a thicker base layer, possibly another on top that is more fleece and if it’s super cold I’ll even toss on a puffy coat like the Stio Azura Insulated Jacket. No hood on this one...for good reason.
Whatever jacket you choose to be your outer layer, a jacket with a hood is a MUST. This makes all the difference in the world to me. Having a helmet-compatible hood that stays put is going to keep you warmer and drier. Having an insulated piece without a hood keeps things from being bulky on your back and makes it easy to pull the hood up. I wear a Stio Doublecharge Insulated Jacket nearly every day and simply vary the layers underneath it. This covers all my bases with staying warm and dry.
Get a Buff!! Luckily, I’m bald. So no bad hair days here, but it does make for the potential to be pretty chilly. I like to wear a buff no matter what, but in large part it’s to pull up over my head and use as another layer under my helmet. I don’t mind the weather on my face as much and can hide behind the cuff on the jacket if needed.
Gloves or mittens??? I’ve pretty much always been a mitten guy… again, coldest human on the planet. I find my hands stay warmer and there are great options out there that can keep your hands warm and dry. Check for an insulated version and ideally waterproof.
Visibility is such a game-changer on these days! Don’t underestimate it. Have the right goggles at the top of the list for your enjoyment on these days. I made the mistake of leaving my goggles in the van overnight and it nearly ruined the next day for me. Once moisture gets between the lenses and it’s cold/unable to dry you’re in for it. Assuming you don’t make that mistake you will likely want a good low visibility lense. When you buy a pair of Smith goggles, most will come with two different lenses. One for bright light and the other for low light. The low light lenses tend to have a yellow or rose tint to them and are super helpful on stormy days with low visibility. They help reduce flat light scenarios and can take your riding from gingerly wandering around to hard-charging.
In Utah we are pretty lucky when it comes to snowfall. Even when it’s blowing sideways on the mountain or dumping, our snow is typically quite dry. I often find myself just wiping the snow off my jacket or pants as it piles up and am good to go staying dry. I would suggest taking a good look at what kind of waterproofing your current gear has. There are different types of materials and waterproofing, some more effective than others. Simply, the higher the number, the more waterproof your gear. You will likely see them fall under:
Personally, I don’t get anything less than 10k but if I lived in a location with more dense/wet snow I would go higher.
Lastly, your feet staying warm is always the crux! There is a part of me that feels like I just need to suck it up and get used to the cold! Yes, there is some truth to that but you can do some things to stack the odds in your favor. Socks are a big part of staying warm and I have found that I do better with a synthetic material vs. wool. For whatever reason the wool makes my feet sweat and because of that they get cold and clammy, I know, gross. Try a few different materials and see what works for you.
I don’t have any experience with them personally but you can try a boot glove. These are neoprene sleeves that essentially go over the toe of your boot to help keep them insulated. A relatively inexpensive option to try to stay warmer.
Lastly, the boot heater! I have owned these in the past and they sure do work. It’s tempting to crank them up but if you’re not mindful the batteries will run out faster on the colder days. If you have the extra cash to swing this it’s a great option but not a necessity for having fun on the colder days. Keep moving, take little breaks when needed, and make the most of the time you have out there.
If you’re passionate about skiing and riding chances are you have encountered a storm day and made some great memories. Setting yourself up for success with some of the things we mentioned above can make the experience that much more enjoyable. Do your homework now on sunny days with the resorts you’re still learning so you can make your way around then when it’s nuking snow. Fingers crossed for lots of pow days in your future!