We had some good snow in the mountains this week and I had several people asking me if I booked a day off work to get some pow pow. But to be honest the thought never crossed my mind. The 24hr snow report didn’t crack the 20cm mark at Louise or Sunshine and that’s just not enough for me to take a snow day. However, after looking at some of the shots posted earlier this week I was wishing I’d braved the cold weather.
We were visiting friends in Canmore last weekend and on Saturday it was -25C. It would’ve been a great opportunity to head up to Louise and cut an hour off the drive from Calgary but I’m sorry, that’s just too cold. I’m not a cold weather wimp either. On Saturday morning we had coffee on the patio at The Good Earth coffee shop because dogs aren’t allowed inside. On Sunday, we took Rio for a 2 hour walk in -18C.
I can dress for the cold such that I’m perfectly comfortable in a frigid -25C. But when I’m trying to ski in that kind of weather I just can’t escape the following sources of discomfort:
1. my toes freeze. This is the most painful problem I have. Even on a good day my toes are frozen by lunch and when it’s hyper cold I’m toast after about three runs.
2. my face gets frost bite. It’s hard to cover up every inch of skin on your face – especially the nose. I have a tube but it’s hard to completely cover the nose. Tucking the tube into your goggles helps but then wind sneaks in around the eyes. And I hate the wet soggy tube that develops.
3. I freeze on the chair. Todays high speed chairs move pretty fast to begin with and at the top of the mountain it’s pretty rare when there isn’t a stiff wind blowing. Sitting immobile while wind sucks the heat from your body is excruciating. I usually attempt to get into the fetal position but this is difficult with the safety bar in the way.
That said, I have a few tips for venturing out in extreme conditions.
1. wear your puffy down jacket – the big one, 800 fill. Yes, you will look wimpy but you’ll be a lot warmer. I also wear a down sweater underneath and a sweater if it’s really cold. You can look stylin’ in the spring.
2. wear snow pants. I have a heavy pair of polar fleece snow pants with a nylon wind break material on the front. These are the cats ass. I’ll wear long johns, a light wind pant and my snow pants. I’m amazed at how much of a difference it makes to keep your legs warm.
3. snowboard. Hard plastic boots are kinda ridiculous when it comes to keeping your toes warm. Having no air circulation is also pretty dumb. There a reason Sorell’s -30C boots are big, floppy, and have zero plastic. Snow board boots are just way better.
4. big down oven mitts. I have one pair of ridiculously fat down mitts that I picked up at MEC one year. When I’m wearing those babies my fingers don’t get cold – ever. Forget gloves when it’s that cold. They just don’t work.
5. wear a toque. I have a helmet that adjusts enough to allow me to wear my fleece line nordic nerd hat. On a frigid day those thin ninja caps just don’t cut it. I don’t like a super warm helmet because on most days I don’t need it. So rather than have two helmets I have one that adjusts big enough to squeeze in my favourite toque.
6. wear a tube or scarf. No explanation required. You just have to cover up the skin on your face. A balaclava is probably the best idea but I hate those things. I just find them really uncomfortable and the mouth hole gets disgusting.
That’s it. If you have the gear you can ski in pretty much the coldest weather Mother Nature can throw at you.