When the temps dip below zero, it’s the little things that will make or break your day on the mountain. Folks, it’s frigid out there (but it’s a dry cold :), so here are my top five tips for enjoying ski days like today.
5. Wax & Weather
As I jumped off the Storm Peak Express Lift and pushed towards Buddy’s Run, my skis felt like they were sticking to the snow. No, there was nothing wrong with my skis, that Velcro feeling is a scientific phenomenon. Skis and snowboards slide best between 20 and 30 degrees. When the temps dip below zero, go downhill and avoid pushing across the flats. Once I got going down Buddy’s Run I zipped right across the corduroy and enjoyed being one of the few people on the mountain. A cold weather wax (usually blue in color) will help you zip to wherever you’d like to go. Also, pay attention to summit, mid-mountain, and base temperatures and ski in the warmest zone. Sometimes it will be warmer at the top, which is called an inversion.
4. Mittens & Hand Warmers
After zipping down Calf Roper, I saw a few folks heading into the Four Points Lodge (See #1 below) to warm up. I noticed most were shaking their gloved hands. I was toasty, so I headed to the freshly-pressed Cyclone. Cyclone was beautiful this morning. Neat grooming ridges and soft snow allowed me to zippity-do-da right to the bottom. My hands weren’t cold because I learned after many tough glove days that mittens are the key to keeping those hands warm when it’s really cold. If it’s below 10 degrees, I always ski in my mittens. If it’s below -10 degrees, I’ll throw a hand warmer in my mittens. You can pick up a pair of hand warmers at all the mountain shops including those lodges on the hill. One small thing that drives me crazy is when people put hand warmers in their boots. It’s a personal thing, but my philosophy is that for optimum skiing, nothing should go in a boot except a foot and a sock. If your feet tend to get cold, invest in boot heaters.
3. Face Masks
On my cruise down the mountain to the base, it was cold! Make sure you have a face mask on days like this! I tucked my facemask into the bottom of my goggles to ensure that I had no skin exposed to the wind. There are many face masks to choose from, but you’ll want one that doesn’t fog up your goggles. Most of them will eventually freeze from breathing into them, so if you are planning a long day, pack an extra fresh mask for after lunch.
2. Puffy Jackets
Take a walk around Steamboat and you will notice there’s a down jacket (“puffy jacket”) revolution going on. I am so happy the Marshmallow Man look is in style because a puffy will keep you super warm and dry in this climate. The more down fill in the jacket, the warmer you will be. Use it as an outer layer or layer it below a parka for extra warmth and waterproofness. Trust me, this is a good investment.
1. Ski Lodges, Hot Drinks, and Fireplaces
When you do eventually get cold despite following my advice above (it will happen to the best of us), pop into any of the lodges on the hill for a hot drink and a seat in front of the fire. My favorite places to go to warm up are the Four Points Lodge for their Maple Bourbon Hot Chocolate (yum!); the newly-expanded Thunderhead Reds for views of Storm Peak; and the bar at Hazie’s Restaurant where the friendly bartenders will create one of Steamboat’s Signature hot drinks for you while you take in incredible views of the Yampa Valley.
Get out there and enjoy the sunshine today. It’s really a fun day to ski, snowboard, ski bike, or snowshoe if you follow my top five tips above! When the kids are tired grab a free wagon at the base to tote all of the family’s gear easily back out of Gondola Square.
Need some gear to stay warm on the slopes? Shops in the base area and on the mountain have everything you need.
See you next year,
Meghan Lutterman, Alpine skier