It's a beautiful day. The sun is out, the snow is groomed and there isn't a cloud in the sky. Then, suddenly, it happens - in a matter of minutes, you're stuck in a torrential snowstorm with zero visibility, miles away from your hotel and you can barely feel your hands. Cheer up. It doesn't have to mean the end of your ski day. Take some advice from the pros - people who get paid to stay outside when the weather gets bad.
The secret to enjoying a ski day - no matter what the conditions - is to be prepared for anything. Ski instructors, Ski Patrolmen and others who make their living on the mountain in all types of weather, keep extra gear with them at all times, beginning with base layers.
Think of your base layers (long underwear for you old timers) as the foundation of your clothing. You need to be comfortable on a sunny, 45 degree day or in a blizzard with the wind blowing sideways. Next to your skin, wear a high quality fabric made by Hot Chillys, Minus 33 or Mountain Hardwear. Quality fabrics wick perspiration and moisture away from your skin, keeping you comfortable and dry, regardless of the outside conditions. Next, add a series of layers that you can wear when it's cold outside or you can stuff into a pocket or backpack when it's warm. While fleece garments are always a good choice, look for others like Yaw, available at Eesa Clothing. Some even offer convenient zip-off sleeves that convert into a vest.
On the outside, you'll need a layer to keep the rain and snow outside while keeping you warm and dry inside. Most outer shells designed for active sports feature large pockets to stow extra gear, high collars, hoods, Velcro-closing cuffs and plenty of zip-vents to regulate airflow. Check out the great designs at Phenix, Descente and Spyder.
Now that you've taken care of your body, how about your hands and feet? Many ski pros tuck away a pair of BootGloves in one of their pockets. BootGloves are neoprene coverings that are worn outside of your boots are can keep your feet as much as 53 degrees warmer on a snowy day. In one of your other pockets, stash a lightweight pair of glove liners. In another pocket, carry a neck gator, a balaclava and a thick wool hat.
It may be sunny when you catch the first chair in the morning, but there's no guarantee that the weather will stay that way. Most seasoned skiers know that being prepared means carrying not only a quality pair of sunglasses but also a pair of goggles. Goggles come in a variety of shapes, sizes and lens colors and are available through ANON Optics, Blue Gazelle, Giro Eyewear, Scott U.S.A. and Spy Optics. You'll find that most ski jackets even come with a specially padded, horizontal pocket designed to keep your sunglasses or goggles out of the way while you ski.
Other useful items include ski wax, a diamond stone and a ski security device. When the weather changes for the worst, chances are the snow conditions will also change, leaving your skis literally stuck to the snow. By carrying a small bar of wax from Fastwax, you can spruce up the bottoms of your skis to meet the new conditions. If you've ever been unlucky enough to hit a rock with your edges, you know how much dinged edges can affect the way that your skis turn. However, if you carry a small, lightweight "credit card" diamond stone from Woodcraft, you can perform a "quick tune" right on the slopes.
At the end of the day, you'll undoubtedly want to meet friends and swap adventures, while sitting around the fire. To make sure that your skis are still in the rack when you return, try securing them with a Pacsafe retractable lock system. At less than 2 ounces, the Pacsafe is a great way to secure your skis, snowboards or other equipment when they're out of sight.
A lot of things can happen to spoil your vacation. But, you can be prepared by taking the same steps the pros do.