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Cold Play: The Virtues of Skiing on a Cold Day

Ice covered trees in Steamboat. Ice covered trees in Steamboat.


Dont let diving mercury keep you indoors. You may be missing your best day on the mountain.

I once skied in at Stowe in Vermont in weather so cold my trapezius muscles were sore the next day from scrunching up my shoulders and shivering so hard. My friends and I skied exactly one run that day and called it quits. I really do love to ski when the sun is shining and the temps are mild.

Howeverhowever!snow sports are, by nature, cold-weather endeavors. If it werent for the diving mercury, we wouldnt have that lovely powdery surface to ski and ride on. What Im saying is that skiers and snowboarders should embrace the cold. Put on your woolies and get out there.

“Put on your woolies and get out there.”

There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, quipped Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who was the first person to cross Antarctica on foot and who circumnavigated the globes polar axis, a three-year, 52,000-mile expedition. And he summited Everest at 65. The man has a point.

A week ago, temperatures were slated to be in the neighborhood of minus 5 and 14 F. The temptation to stay home in front of the fire was fierce. I decided to brave the weather and head for Eldora. If Fiennes can walk across a continent in frigid temps, surely I could ski for a day, with a lodge and a cup of cocoa always at the ready.

A cold beautiful day at Eldora. A cold but beautiful day at Eldora.


The night before, I laid out my puffyPrimaLoft vest, my extra-thick neck Roxy neck gaitor (the lovely smelling one thats infused with skin-soothing lotion), and what I like to call my fat pants (they are insulated, so they put on a good 10 pounds).

I charged up my Hottronic boot heater batteriesmy husband calls them boot cheatersand tucked my boots into my Athalon heated boot bag, so my boots would be as soft and warm as slippers when I pulled into Eldoras parking lot. I loaded up my day pack with disposable hand warmers.

Indeed the day was cold, with temps hovering around 10 degrees and a mighty wind whipping up at random intervals. But I skied eight runs off the Corona lift before I stopped for a hot cup of coffee.

Heres the great thing about skiing in the cold: You have the place practically to yourself. There are, indeed, a lot of fair-weather skiers out there, so on chilly days, the trails are blissfully empty. The people you meet on the chair are a hearty bunch, and you enjoy a certain camaraderie. Were all facing this cold front together.

eldora_12_18_2016 cold (1) “Were all facing this cold front together.” (Snow gun induced) Rime at Eldora.


The snow can be perfect. The day before I skied Eldora, it had snowed a foot (my husband could tell you about that), and I was still finding untracked pockets of light dry snow. They dont call it cold smoke for nothing. When its too warm, all the freshies turn heavy or crusty.

Theres beauty in a winter landscape that only comes with the right mix of meteorological inputs. When supercooled water combines with high winds and subzero temperatures, rime can form on the trees, turning them to fantastical snow ghosts. The blast of a snowgun on a cold night can create a manmade rime, too. Rippled patterns form in snow windswept overnight, and in the morning the snow crystals sparkle in the textured snow like diamonds.

I ran into a friend in the lodge who told me he always skis on the cold days, because in his mind, its a matter of paying it forward. In a Karmic twist, he figures, ski in the cold in January, and youll be rewarded with warm days in March. I dont know if it really works that way. But who am I to mess with somebodys view of the universe?

Theres also a sense of accomplishment to braving the weather. I was proud of having outwitted Mother Nature with good gear choices. Really, I was warm all day, cocooned in my fat pants and puffy vest.

Dont get me wrong, though. When its bluebird and warm, Ill still be skiing. And Ill like it. But theres something to be said for a cold day.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.
Bill Bowerman

Helen Olsson is the author of The Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids. She blogs about outdoor adventures with kids at