by Skimum Valerie
Ladies, you know that nothing can ruin a ski day faster than having cold fingers and toes. It can suck the fun right out of an otherwise fabulous day. Here in the Wasatch Mountains, weather conditions and temperatures can change quickly and drastically. A couple years ago I took a series of women’s’ ski classes in January. One of the most important lessons I learned from those brutally cold mornings was that, if properly prepared, you can enjoy skiing even in extreme cold temperatures. Here are some simple steps you can take to ensure you stay nice and toasty, no matter what Mother Nature is throwing at you.
Put a lid on that!
I know…that cute, little crochet beanie in the ski shop looks sooo adorable on you! But trust me, a helmet will keep you much, MUCH warmer when you are swooshing down the mountain at 30 or 40 mph. It’s also a much safer way to ski. I honestly can’t believe I skied for so many years without a helmet. This year I have a new Smith Variant model that allows me to open or close air vents to control air flow. Love it! It’s all about regulating your temperature. I also have the Skull Candy drop-in speakers built into the ear panels. I can listen to my music or even answer my phone! Go ahead and buy that cute beanie, but save it for after you ski.
With all the new (and some old) technology, you no longer have to dress like an Eskimo to say warm in the mountains. In fact, I am able to dress in very few layers and still keep my core warm all day. First off, I recommend a good, breathable base. Cotton is not recommended because it will hold in moisture. Next you need a good insulating layer. I love my goose down sweater jacket! It is super light-weight, breaths well and keeps me nice and warm. A good fleece pullover or jacket also works well. Lastly, you need a good, wind-proof and water-proof shell to offer front line protection from the elements. I love my bomb-proof Arc’Teryx Gore-Tex © shell, but there are some other materials that have worked great for me as well, including Mountain Hardwear’s DryCore Elite© technology or REI’s EVENT© fabric. Some jackets have the insulating layer built into them. I prefer, however, to keep them separate. That way I can swap out different insulating layers, depending on weather conditions. Also, (very important) make sure your jacket/shell has a hood that is big enough to cover your helmet. The combination of a helmet and a hood will make you feel like a warm little butterfly wrapped up inside a little cocoon – even in gale-force winds.
Gloves vs. Mittens
I’ve tried all sorts of different ski gloves over the years. Some have been great. Some, less so great. This Christmas, my wonderful husband gave me a pair of new mittens. They’re awesome and they are warmer than any pair of gloves I’ve ever tried. Mittens rule!
When I check my Snowbird app in the morning and see that the temperature is sub 20 degrees, I break out the Hotties. Where is the Nobel prize for this life-saving invention??? These wonderful, tiny bags of warmth have saved many a ski day for me. Here’s a tip: I heat mine up while I’m driving up the canyon. In order to create heat, they need oxygen…so I actually stick them in the slots of my car air vents. By the time I hit the parking lot they are piping hot! I buy my Hotties at Costco. A box will last my family a whole season.
If there is anything better than hand warmers, it’s got to be toe warmers. Again, I try to preheat these in my heat vents while driving up the canyon. Sometimes if you take them out of the packaging right before you put your boots on they don’t have time to activate. Some people like to stick their toe warmers to the bottom of their socks. I prefer to stick them to the top of my socks. I find that they stay out of the way better and don’t get bunched up under my toes.
OK…let me say here that it took some coaxing, but a cold, windy, January day in single-digits temps convinced me that a balaclava is a must-have item. I now keep one in my jacket pocket whenever I ski. How many times have you jumped on the lift on a beautiful sunny day, only to find yourself a few minutes later in the middle of Himalayan blizzard at the top of the mountain? You really need something that covers any exposed skin. Even the thinnest balaclavas provide amazing protection – and you won’t even notice them in your pocket when you are not wearing them.
My husband reminds me all the time that skiing is not a beauty pageant. “It’s OK to look like you are about to rob a liquor store – as long as you are warm.”
Lotion & ChapStick
When you are getting ready in the morning, be sure to put on some face lotion. For one, it helps to keep your skin from drying out. Secondly, I find that it also helps to keep you warmer. Maybe not a lot warmer, but it helps cut the wind. It’s also a great idea, especially in the spring, to also apply sunscreen. Your skin will love you for it! I also always keep some ChapStick in my jacket. Make sure it has some SPF sun protection and be sure to use it!
Eat, drink and stay warm
Your body needs fuel to burn in order to generate heat. Don’t skimp on breakfast before you go skiing. I also make sure I drink plenty before I head up for the day. Hydration is essential…but often overlooked. When you are properly hydrated, your skin actually has better insulating capabilities (like a wet-suit). Drink plenty of water and carry some trail mix with you to snack on.
Already cold? Try these tips to get warmed up, and back on the slopes.
Flap your Wings!
Cold fingers? Try this: Extend your arms (and fingers) as wide as you can and then quickly pull them in front you across your chest, and then quickly back out to the sides. Do this back and forth at least 6 times. Yes…you may look a little goofy, but it works! What you are doing with these calisthenics is developing some serious centripetal motion, which literally pushes blood back out to your fingertips. When done properly, you can actually feel the blood returning to your fingers. They’ll tingle!
Ski the bumps!
Nothing warms you up like a trip down a mogul field. You won’t be skiing as fast (less wind) and you will be working those leg and butt muscles! Bonus!
Take a break.
Tried all of the above tips and you are still cold? Maybe it’s time to take a break and hit the lodge. There’s no shame in that. You’re up here to enjoy yourself, right? Go, unbuckle your boots, sit by a fire and sip some hot cocoa. I like to find a comfortable chair by a window so I can enjoy the view from my mountain oasis.
Now get out there, stay warm, and have some fun on the slopes!
Kudos to Skimum Valerie for a terrific post. After trashing 2 pairs of earbuds this season, I’ve just added drop-in headphones to my wish list.