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How cold is too cold to ski?

post #1 of 89
Thread Starter 

I'm from the midwest (sucks for skiing!), so we ski at temps that most people would likely just skip going to mountain.

 

Today is -9 and I'm thinking about going as I have time.   What's the coldest you'd still make the trip up to mountain, and at what point do you stay home?

 

Two years ago we skied when it was -15 (no wildchill) as we'd set up the trip several weeks before and didn't want to cancel.

post #2 of 89

-10 deg F is about my limit.

post #3 of 89

It's never too cold.  biggrin.gif

 

I think the coldest I have ever skied was around -18F with a windshill of -33F or so.   All the lifts at steamboat had frostbite exposure warnings

 

With modern boot warmers, and proper clothing you can pretty much ski anything mother nature throws at you.

post #4 of 89

I have skied to minus 42c (= -42F) but find once you get much below -30c the snow gets sticky 

post #5 of 89

Yeah there are not many options in terms of wax when it gets that cold.  And very few ski shops even use wax for -30F temps.

post #6 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by noncrazycanuck View Post

I have skied to minus 42c (= -42F) but find once you get much below -30c the snow gets sticky 

I also have a day under my belt at "F meets C" level. Just needed to find a wax that worked, otherwise was fine. 

post #7 of 89

On a really cold day, the speed at which you ski can create its own wind chill. I once got a touch of frost bight on my thumbs, right through my mitts.

post #8 of 89
Thread Starter 

I guess this is one way you can say that the midwest beats most of the US.  Are hills are so small that the chalet is usually RIGHT at the bottom of the slope, allowing you to go in and warm up very easily and then get right back at it quickly.   We'll often take a break every 30-45 minutes with the kids to warm up for 5 minutes. 

 

I need to look into some boot heaters for my wife.  She's the one who gets cold the fastest..

post #9 of 89

I once night skied at -12 F at a place called Taylor Mtn, Idaho.  I was about ready to call it a night when I got in line for one more run.  The lift stopped just as I was about to sit down.  It didn't run again for 45 minutes.  I can't imagine sitting on the lift for that long without sustaining frostbite (this was 1979, when ski clothing was not as advanced).  I left the hill before the lifts got going, so I don't know what the carnage was.

 

I wonder at what temperature the ski area itself should make the call to shut down?  Mechanical issues have got to become worse in sub-zero conditions I would think.

post #10 of 89
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpikeDog View Post

I once night skied at -12 F at a place called Taylor Mtn, Idaho.  I was about ready to call it a night when I got in line for one more run.  The lift stopped just as I was about to sit down.  It didn't run again for 45 minutes.  I can't imagine sitting on the lift for that long without sustaining frostbite (this was 1979, when ski clothing was not as advanced).  I left the hill before the lifts got going, so I don't know what the carnage was.

 

I wonder at what temperature the ski area itself should make the call to shut down?  Mechanical issues have got to become worse in sub-zero conditions I would think.

 

The local hills here in MN don't shut down when it gets super cold, but they'll often just leave 1-2 lifts open and close many of the runs.   This is usually because the hills are pretty empty when it's that cold.   The ski patrol has less are to cover that way.

 

I skied a few years ago on a -15 deg day (like -35 windchill) and there were EIGHT paid skiers there that night.  8 people skiing, and about 20-25 people working at the hill.    I think that was my favorite day skiing ever.  lol...  

post #11 of 89

High winds with drizzle will keep me home more than just cold temps, but when it gets really cold to the point that the skis no longer want to slide on the snow then the joy factor goes down.  I think it was somewhere around -10F where the snow got sticky.

post #12 of 89

A few years back it was so cold at Keystone that women were crying in the warming hut (OK one woman and who knows why she was crying but still).  I don't remember the exact temp but I've skied comfortably below zero and this was the first time I ever just gave up and got the hell out of there.

post #13 of 89

when you aren't having fun

I take a couple long drives to ski Crested Butte with my sister and brother- usually have only three days- pretty hard for me to not want to hit the slopes regardless of the weather- heading there in a couple weeks- would like to see snow coming down- heavier the better- clothing has come a long ways since the old days of skiing N Minn- not to hard to enjoy most any conditons

post #14 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abox View Post

A few years back it was so cold at Keystone that women were crying in the warming hut (OK one woman and who knows why she was crying but still).  I don't remember the exact temp but I've skied comfortably below zero and this was the first time I ever just gave up and got the hell out of there.

 

LOL!  So cold that the only reasonable action is to cry!

post #15 of 89

I used to think I could brave anything, but I just got back from a trip to Big Sky where the day started at -20 and never got above 5* (estimated very optimistically).  I could only do two medium-long runs before I had to go in to warm fingers, etc nipped all the way through gloves with warmers. 

 

We were there for only two days and it might be a long time before I get back, so I soldiered on.  But I have to say, it really took the starch out of me both physically and mentally.  On day 2, the tram was running and I never even considered it, although I had hoped to ski the upper bowls.  Conditions and cold sapped my psyche.  FWIW, I don't consider myself a weather wimp and have often skied in low single-digit days here in the east when others have given up.  I think the truly minus temps plus the longer and faster western pitches conspired to make it seem a LOT colder.

post #16 of 89

You should be good to -20C.  -20 to -25C you are in the danger zone and need to be careful of frostbite etc, as it comes on quick at those temps, I only ski in these temps if I absolutley have to.  Colder then -25C is too cold to ski for me.

post #17 of 89

anyone remember the days when you'd see a fire on the side of the run and some meeting to warm and sip from wine flasks

post #18 of 89

Am an old Tahoe skier where temps tend to be moderated versus continental temps.   However occasionally we do get periods of very cold continental air so indeed I have skied hours at zero F temps in the past.   I have good cold weather clothing, especially head gear,  but it is still a real challenge to do so without it being unpleasant as one cannot have any chinks in their armor that allows any exposed skin.    A couple weekends ago I declined driving the 200 miles to Tahoe to ski because morning temps were around zero with mid day temps only 15F.   Would have bothered were it a fresh snow day but not with two week old snow even though it was good packed powder.   Certainly could have had fun but it was just not pleasant enough to hassle with all the drive and logistics and if I was already up there, yeah I would have skied.

post #19 of 89

A few years ago our group traveled to Fernie, B.C.   From the Portland, Or. area we traveled by auto stopping at Schweitzer ski area at Sand Point, Idaho.  I had our skis waxed for that area but when we arrived at Fernie it was -12 degrees.  Our first chair up we were unprepared.  Upon unloading our skis stuck, the chair hit us in the back and we all fell.  Skiing was a challenge that day as we had to go in every hour to warmup.

post #20 of 89

I grew up skiing in the Midwest and had plenty of cold days there as well as in the west.  I'll ski just about any temp, but when it gets around -20F the fun goes way down.  When it gets that cold you have to really cover everything, avoid going fast (wind kills you) and take some warm up breaks.  I've skied twice when it was sub -20F.  Once was at Breck when it was sunny and a lot of fun.  The other was in Canada when it was cloudy and I might bail if the same weather hits me again...

post #21 of 89

I have yet to experience "too cold to ski", but I've never  had the chance to ski when it's truly cold.  The closest I've come was a few years ago at Searchmont when it was 35 below when I pulled into the parking lot.  It warmed up a bit as the day went on, probably getting up to -25 or so.  But there was bright sunshine and it was one of the best ski days I've ever had.  No crowds!

 

As others have said, the snow slows down once you get to -20 or so.  At -35 it's noticably slow, and I've heard that at -50 it's too slow to ski.  Someday, I hope to test that hypothesis, in the meantime, it's never too cold.

 

Wind, OTOH, can make it unpleasant if there's too much.  Yesterday it was 10 degrees with 40MPH winds and I almost went in for a leisurely breakfast after an hour to wait for better weather.  Almost. I was seriously thinking about it.

post #22 of 89

I went for a ski week at Sugarbush back around 1970.  The temperature finally got up to zero on Friday afternoon.  Several mornings were in the minus 20s.

post #23 of 89
I was skiing in Vail last week Temps per the display at mid mtn. Lift4 were- 17 ,-19 ,-19 F the last 3 days. Whether these temps were truly accurate is debatable but it was wicked cold for sure. Snow in the lift corral would not allow you glide. Vail needs less polar air influx and more moisture in the form of snow.
post #24 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpikeDog View Post

I once night skied at -12 F at a place called Taylor Mtn, Idaho.  I was about ready to call it a night when I got in line for one more run.  The lift stopped just as I was about to sit down.  It didn't run again for 45 minutes.  I can't imagine sitting on the lift for that long without sustaining frostbite (this was 1979, when ski clothing was not as advanced).  I left the hill before the lifts got going, so I don't know what the carnage was.

 

I wonder at what temperature the ski area itself should make the call to shut down?  Mechanical issues have got to become worse in sub-zero conditions I would think.

 



I have never heard of fixed temp for closing but from a safety point they should. One road trip we drove from Vancouver to Banff and  Sunshine closed due to extreme cold (-46c and windy)  So we drove to the sunny Okanogan and enjoyed the tropical -35c skiing. But at some temperatures

if a chair stops for a period of time it's not going to turn out well. Luckily those low temperature days are extremely rare.  

post #25 of 89

It was about -10 F at our little hill today, and about -15 on Friday. Friday was great for the three hours I was out. Toes got a touch cold by the end, and I wore a helmet liner and face mask, but the conditions were ideal for a groomer fan like me. Things weren't so great today, thanks to a brief weekend thaw that left a lot of icy patches when the hill refroze. Still, it was fun, and the temperature was no concern at all. A bunch of us used to XC ski regularly at -20 when I lived in Northern Ontario, and that was before Gore-Tex, Primaloft, heat packs and all the comforting stuff we have nowadays. We told ourselves it was a dry cold. rolleyes.gif

I wouldn't want to ski if it were any colder than about -20, though.

post #26 of 89

-20 is about my limit.

 

I was skiing last week in the cold snap in Colorado when it was -20 to -10, but at least out there the humidity is much lower than the Midwest.  I've skied many days in the Midwest & East Coast when it has been 0 to 10 degrees which felt much more miserable due to the dampness, wind, and the fact you don't generate as much heat skiing as you do out west.

 

I've started on mornings in Northern Michigan where it was -20 but at least it warmed up above 0 within a few hours.

post #27 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View Post

You should be good to -20C.  -20 to -25C you are in the danger zone and need to be careful of frostbite etc, as it comes on quick at those temps, I only ski in these temps if I absolutley have to.  Colder then -25C is too cold to ski for me.


Hey, speak English!  (and yet this simple ploy has rooted out a significant clue at to Skidude's true identity = he speaks in metric)

 

Being a California skier, I'd say I'm stayin' home and doin' yoga roflmao.gif(yes, that's the California bliss roll),  if temp at the bell is below 10* FARENHEIT (metric snobsnonono2.gif) unless it's pretty f'in good.

post #28 of 89

I ski nearly everyday.  I have night skied on Christmas Eve on patrol duty when it was easily -20f.  I skied on New Years morning at -20 with high wind on an early tram private lesson.  It is never too cold to ski.  It's my job and I will do it if someone wants to go or it falls to me.  It's always good once I'm there, even if I really didn't want to go at the outset.  There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.

post #29 of 89

I guess you could ski in 20 below at JH, due to gravity ... I tried at Copper a couple years ago, and had to pole myself down the blues. (there was a nice 6 inch layer of manmade snow to slow me down, as well.) I needed lots more pitch to move. 

post #30 of 89

Super cold temps don't equal fun skiing.  Not so much because it's cold for our bodies, but more so because super cold snow temps make skis stick like crazy.  When the melt layer cannot form between your skis and the snow then it's pretty much like skiing on sandpaper.  I've found this to be less of an issue when you're skiing fresh snow, but if there's no fresh to be found then I won't bother if the air temp is below 10* F.

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