Sometimes you can arrive at a ski resort, and the weather is not favorable. But, you have been looking forward to your skiing trip for ages, and you still want to get out on the mountain.
While the colder temperatures at high altitude ski resorts turn precipitation into snow, lower ski resorts are susceptible to rain from time to time. But, is a bit of rain really going to stop you from skiing?
Of course not! With your limited mountain time, you will still want to make the most of your trip. It is entirely possible to ski in the rain, but it is a slightly different experience. So in this post, we will give you some top tips for skiing in the rain.
- Why The Rain Should Not Stop You Skiing
- But…It Is OK To Have A Day Off
- Give Snowboarding A Try
- Tips For Skiing In The Rain
- Clothing Tips For Skiing In The Rain
- Final Thoughts
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Skiing in the rain can be a little more dangerous than in preferable conditions. This is down to the quality of the snow, but with the correct technique and some preparation, you can make it much safer.
You need to adapt a few things, but it can still be enjoyable if you do it properly.
When it rains in the mountains, most people won’t bother heading to the slopes. They will take the opportunity to have a lie-in or experience the other things a ski resort offers. But, skiing in the rain is not as uncomfortable as you may first think, in fact, it can be lots of fun.
Skiing in the rain rewards you with non-existent lift lines and deserted slopes. Consequently, you will be able to get in more runs and use as much of the slope as you like.
Skiing in the rain gives you a chance to challenge yourself too. The warmer temperature makes the snow softer, which means you need to alter your technique as it is harder to turn.
However, if the temperature is still cold, the snow can become more hardpacked and icy. Therefore, you can often ski faster, thanks to the layer of water lubricating the ice.
In addition to this, if you have a new fancy jacket, you can really test out its waterproofing.
With all this in mind, if you look out of your hotel window in the morning, and it is raining, you should head up the mountain anyway. You may be surprised at how much fun you have.
And besides, if you don’t enjoy yourself, you can end your day early and go for a long lunch. You have nothing to lose by trying.
In many cases, when you look out of the window and see the mountain covered in clouds, you may be able to get above it, into the sunshine. Many people will be put off, so you may get lucky and have excellent conditions on an empty mountain.
If once you get up the mountain and the conditions make skiing unenjoyable, don’t force it. It is totally OK to call it a day, even after one run.
If you are struggling with exceptionally heavy or icy snow, especially as a beginner, it is better to be safe than sorry. When your head isn’t in it, and you are out of your depth, accidents can happen.
You don’t need to be a hero every day, so if you feel that it is unpleasant or too intimidating, head back down the mountain. It is best to save yourself for another day when the conditions are much more suitable for you.
Ski resorts have lots to do these days other than skiing. Go bowling, ice skating, swimming, or even book a spa session. But, these activities will be popular on a rainy day, so you may want to make up your mind about your day early on.
You can even have a long lunch and start enjoying the aprÃ¨s scene much earlier. There is a good chance that most people will have the same idea, so the atmosphere will be pretty lively.
If you don’t want to explore the mountain on skis, why not stay local and learn a new skill? If the snow is soft and slushy, this is a great time to get a snowboard lesson.
The slush will slow you down, so learning the basics will be easier. Also, the softness of the snow will cushion your fall.
If you have some snowboarding experience, slushy conditions are great for learning tricks, as everything is slowed down, with fewer consequences when you get it wrong.
Slushy conditions are pretty fun on a snowboard, and when you get some speed up, the technique is similar to what you would use when riding powder.
Rain makes a massive difference to the quality and consistency of snow on a ski slope. For example, groomed slopes will often ice over, while powder will be slushy and wet.
Therefore, you need to adjust your technique to suit the conditions. You will only get good at adapting to different snow conditions by getting the practice and experience necessary.
One of the crucial things to think about when skiing in the rain is that your visibility will be compromised. To ensure you ski safely, keep your speed in check and stay in control, as people and trees can emerge from the mist without warning.
It is not a good idea to head into the backcountry when the weather is rainy. The rain will make the snow much heavier, affecting its quality and increasing the risk of avalanche.
A hardpacked ski slope can freeze over very quickly in the rain. When it does, there is less friction between the snow and your skis.
The result is faster speeds, decreased control, and increased stopping distances. One way of looking at this is that it is great fun, but it can be pretty dangerous for inexperienced skiers.
To ski on wet ice, you need to be mindful of your edge control. Before you put in a turn, plan ahead to make sure you can anticipate the extra slip and momentum.
By planning your turns, you can often find nicer snow that your skis can find purchase on. Also, you will be able to avoid other people and hazards as you ski.
Your adapted technique will mean that you take wider turns, as you will need to be more patient and controlled. You will have to wait out the extra slip we mentioned earlier as you turn.
As you slide, you may be tempted to overcorrect, which is the last thing you should do. The best thing to do is trust your skis and let them slide until you are back in complete control for your next turn.
Use the extra momentum to finish your turn properly and enjoy the new sensation. Also, these conditions require a wider stance to increase your stability.
If the rain turns the snow into slush, you will have to adapt your technique in a different way. Lots of people love skiing in slush, but many people hate it too.
The danger of skiing in slush is that you can easily catch an edge. If one ski carries on as you want it to, while the other one catches, you can suffer a twisted knee. Therefore, there are a few adaptations you need to make to your technique.
Slush is wet and heavy, so it can be hard work to keep moving. To allow you to push through the snow, you may need to lean back a little to keep your tips up.
It is essential to bend your knees to stay balanced and ready to absorb any bumps. You should also keep pressure on both skis to avoid one ski getting stuck in the snow.
Skiing in slush requires you to have a slightly narrower stance. This is to make your carves through the slush easier.
Slush is slower than regular snow, so you need to keep your speed up. If you do too many short turns, you will scrub off too much speed and come to a stop, which is frustrating when you get to a flat section.
Make fewer turns and aim for the steeper parts of the slope to keep your speed up. These conditions are actually pretty good for nervous skiers. This is because you can fine-tune your turns and play with different lines down the mountain while skiing more slowly.
If you service your own skis, you may want to check the weather forecast and choose a suitable wax for the conditions. You can use different types of wax for different temperatures.
Wax more suited to cold weather will not allow your skis to run as freely on slushy snow. Therefore, if it looks warm for your trip, choose an appropriate wax for the conditions.
The ski wax manufacturer will indicate an ideal temperature range for the different wax they produce on the packaging.
By being fit, you will enjoy your skiing much more, no matter what the weather is like. Therefore, start working on your fitness about eight weeks before your ski trip.
If you have strong legs and a strong core, you will handle the extra demands that come with skiing in the rain. You will have the strength to cope with heavy snow and be able to react to the changes in snow conditions.
Choosing the proper clothing for the conditions is essential. When it is raining, you need ski clothing with an excellent waterproof rating; this is not the time to ski in jeans.
Not all ski clothing performs well in the rain. High-end ski clothing will use Gore-Tex or something similar, while cheaper clothing will have a DWR coating, which is just water repellant.
In heavy downpours or extended time in rainy conditions, you will notice water seeping in through cheaper clothing. You will become cold and uncomfortable quickly.
If you are in the market for new ski clothing and expect to be skiing in the rain, you need clothing with a waterproof rating of 10,000 mm. But, for ultimate protection against rain, you should buy clothing with a waterproof rating between 20,000-30,000 mm.
Ski clothing is only as waterproof as its most vulnerable parts. The seams where the panels join together are very susceptible to letting in water.
So to completely keep the rain out, look for ski clothing with taped seams. These clothing items are more expensive but definitely worth the extra investment to keep your mid and base layers dry.
You will notice that ski clothing in the middle of the price range will have the most critical seams sealed. Cheap ski clothing does not have taped seams at all and will let water in.
If you don’t want to spend all your money on expensive ski clothing, you have an alternative choice. Cheaper rain gear used for fishing, camping, etc., will keep the rain out (you can even wear a poncho). However, you need to be aware that this type of clothing is not breathable.
Non-breathable clothing will not let out moisture from the inside. Therefore, as you work up a sweat, the sweat has nowhere to go, which will mean you will get cold when you stop moving.
One of the great things about ski helmets when skiing in the rain is that they don’t get soaked through as a beanie hat does. Also, wearing goggles instead of sunglasses will work much better in soggy conditions.
Your helmet and goggles need to interface with each other properly. When they work well together, you can avoid the gap which exposes your forehead to the elements.
If you buy goggles that are too big for the shape of your helmet, they can interfere with its fit. Goggles that are too large can affect your helmet’s position on your head and how it protects you.
When you buy goggles or a helmet, you need to try them on together in the shop to ensure the perfect fit.
When you ski, you should do everything you can to keep the foam in your goggles dry. The easiest way to do this is to not take them off at all or store them in a dry pocket.
Never put your goggles on top of your helmet when it is wet. If you do this, the foam will get saturated with water, which is very unpleasant when they go back on your face.
Wet goggle foam will also cause your lens to fog up, which will affect your visibility. If your goggles fog up, do not wipe the inside, as they have a very delicate coating on them, which will get damaged and affect the lifespan of the lens.
The best way to de-mist a goggle lens is to warm it up in your pocket or under a hand drier in a mountain restaurant’s restroom.
If you have a choice of different goggle lenses, you should choose the low-light lens for skiing in the rain. This is the yellow lens that improves contrast and isn’t too dark, so you can see better.
Goggles with a fancy lens, such as the Oakley Prizm lens, are good in all light conditions.
The last thing you want to do in the morning is put on wet ski clothes and head out into the cold. So, you need to find a way of drying your stuff out, so you can get a good start to your day.
Some ski chalets have heated ski rooms that you can use. Hang up your jacket and pants in these rooms overnight to ensure they are dry for the morning.
If your accommodation doesn’t have a heated ski room, try to hang your clothes up above a heater or radiator. Don’t put your ski clothes directly onto the radiator or heater, as they could melt or damage the waterproof coatings. They will also leave colored stains on the radiator that will never come off.
Some ski properties have tumble driers, but you should avoid putting your ski clothing in them to dry. The heat from the drier will completely ruin your clothes’ waterproofing and possibly the drier.
Putting on soggy ski boots is very unpleasant, and if the temperature drops, you may not want to ski at all. Therefore, you need to ensure your boots are dry before you put them on.
Some accommodation options in ski resorts have boot driers. These are very effective at drying your boots, but you need to be careful when using them.
Boot driers can affect the heat-moldable liners in ski boots, which will compromise their fit. Therefore, make sure the boot drier is on a timer, or you don’t leave the boots on them for too long.
If there is no boot drier available, you can remove ski boot liners to dry them out. Leave the boots and liners in a warm room or near a radiator (but remember to not leave the liners there for too long).
You can buy portable boot driers that you can pack into your luggage. These are a very cheap and effective way of having comfortable feet in the morning.
When you ski in the rain, your gloves will get soaked, which will lead to cold hands and fingers. This can cause problems and discomfort when it gets colder.
If you know you are going to be skiing in the rain, it is a good idea to pack an extra pair of gloves. When you get to a point where your gloves are saturated, and you can wring them out, you can swap them for a dry pair.
You may want more than two pairs of gloves, so you have at least one dry pair while the others are drying out.
When the weather is wet, having more socks than you think you need is beneficial. You may want to put on dry socks at lunchtime after the rain has soaked through your boots.
If you buy some heated socks, your feet will feel cozy and feel comfortable for longer.
Some people never wash their ski clothing. The reason for this is because they are worried that cleaning them will ruin the waterproof coatings and membranes.
However, never washing your ski clothing has the opposite effect. Washing your ski clothing actually makes sure it is working how it should.
The life of a ski jacket is quite a tough one. It gets rubbed into the ground when you fall; it gets dirty from ski lifts and soaked in beer at the aprÃ¨s bar.
All of this punishment puts dirt and bacteria into the pores in the material’s membrane. As the pores get clogged up, the jacket will become less breathable, so moisture cannot escape from the inside.
Wash your ski clothing once or twice a month, depending on how often you wear them. For many people, one wash per winter is sufficient.
But you need to wash ski clothing properly, so you don’t damage the fabrics. Follow the washing instructions and don’t use bleach or fabric softeners, as they are harsh on the material and membrane. Also, remember to not put your ski clothing in the dryer, as this can also damage the membrane.
Skiing in the rain will never come close to a nice and sunny bluebird day. But, you can have fun or use the time to develop your skills.
As long as you are prepared and have the correct mindset, you can enjoy the mountain in rainy conditions. But, you need to make sure you are safe and comfortable.
If you are not safe and comfortable, you are going to have a bad day. Wear the correct clothing, adjust your technique to suit the conditions, and know when to call it a day.