Have skied in the -40's several times- both alpine and nordic - never noticed my skis sticking- but that was many years ago. Getting older - now don't like to go below -30 C.
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.
For the skis to be slick, there has to be at least a little water being produced by friction under the ski. Once the temps get that low, it's like trying to glide on sand. Not to mention the weird things that happen to the chemicals in wax at super low temps.
It's actually a bit more complicated than that, and the old saw about skates (or skis) making a thin layer of water due to their pressure or friction has been supplanted by a more complex model:
It used to be thought that the reason skaters can glide gracefully across the ice is because the pressure they exert on the sharp blades creates a thin layer of liquid on top of the ice.
There seems to be a logic to that, Mr. Swanson [Eric Swanson, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh] said, because of the strange properties of water.
"Normally if you take a substance and put it under more pressure, it's going to make it more tight and solid. But water is a really unusual substance, and in fact when you put [ice] under pressure, it does melt."
More recent research has shown, though, that this property isn't why skaters can slide on the ice.
It turns out that at the very surface of the ice, water molecules exist in a state somewhere between a pure liquid and a pure solid.
"It's not exactly water -- but it's like water. The atoms in this layer are 100,000 times more mobile than the atoms [deeper] in the ice, but they're still 25 times less mobile than atoms in water. So it's like proto-water, and that's what we're really skimming on."
That said, this layer of "proto-water" gets thinner and less mobile as the temperature drops, and at about -50 they say the snow feels like skiing on sand.
Another good article on this:
Was -12F at the Breck parking lot last weekend, and felt much colder up at the top. Had toe warmers, hand warmers, multiple layers, etc. I was fine.
Skis really didnt want to slide on the snow though - was quite sticky. I stay off groomers entirely when its that cold. Going fast makes its own wind chill. Stick to bumps and I generate enough heat myself to stay warm.
I was out 4 years ago at -30 at Copper (I have the Weather Channel screen shot from that morning on my camera so I wasn't dreaming) . No wind that day and it actually was a fun day. However, a year earlier I was "hung out to dry" on a chair at Breck above the tree line for about 25 minutes. The temp was around zero, but the wind had the chairs almost sideways at times. That gave me pause as I started to consider how long I could last if the lift was down for a considerably longer period of time- I didn't know if there was a mechanical lift problem or whether the wind gusts were causing them to stop the lift.
In the 60s and 70s at Tod Mountain (now called Sun Peaks) they use to hand out capes or blankets for the 10,000+ ft long, 20 minute chair ride on the Burfield lift. Nowadays the ride is 22 minutes and no capes, but we do have fleece, Gore-Tex fabrics, offset down baffle jackets, and synthetic long underwear and insulated ski pants.
there's a thread on this every season, if you look at the one from 2 years back, Me Gregmerz, Ski-ra and Bumpfreaq all skied in -34*. there's a video of Greg and I tossing water off a balcony and the water instantly vaporizes.
Holmenkol Blue will take care of that sticky problem down to about -25f. As for skiing in the cold, in the Midwest it really isn't that harsh as you are always 4 minutes from the lodge. I used to go out for 3-5 runs then come in for 20 minutes rinse and repeat, 1-2 runs if it is CRAZY cold... Places where you are on the lifts longer and venturing much farther from a heated place to take a warm up break is another matter entirely!
Once at Whiteface there was a sign outside that summit warming hut saying that with wind chill, the temp was -50. I never saw, or don't remember what the actual temp was.
When I regained feeling in my feet that evening, I felt a popping in my foot, and thought that I'd broken a bone. It was actually Morton's Neuroma, which I developed that day.
My boots were Raichle's; the skis Hexcell 542 GSRs (203 CM). I don't know the brand of the cold. Possibly Arctic Blast? In those days there were color-coded sticks of rub on wax. Red, Orange, Blue, and Silver. I must have used the one that was rated for the lowest temps, whatever it was.
Yeah and across the street at the top of Old Baldy it's minus 34 with steady 60MPH wind gusting to 90....wind chill factor???
Anyone skiing Tuck's today?
...to ride lifts, yes. Admittedly, my only day at this temp was in a cat, and that was cozy. Might have even been the day my avatar photo was taken, definitely same trip.
|Wednesday 8:45 AM|
Those are the current conditions on Mt. Washington, NH.
Despite being a Mainer and used to cold, I would wait until after lunch before taking my first turns down Tucks.
Across the street, Wildcat Mtn is shut down for two days due to cold? Sounds more like Pussycat Mtn to me.
Went last night at -4 and it wasn't bad at all. I made 15 runs before I was too cold and left. My finger tips and toes were a bit cold but my legs (and ass) were freezing! I should have put on another layer under my shells but usually my legs don't get cold...
The coldest I recall being out on the mountain (not at a little Midwest hill) was in Northern Vermont, Stowe IIRC. Second run and my friend just plopped down lame on the side of the hill yelling "my feet are FREEZING!!!" I skied up to him and noticed that the side of his boot shell had split wide open He was done for the day, and trip hahaha. I was also pretty cold skiing Indianhead MI as a teen on a church trip many many years ago. Don't know how cold it was, but had to be at least -30 before wind chill. We stuck (literally) to the t-bar and rope tows that day
So many of you are hardcore to be skiing at -20 C.
I got frostbite on the tips of my ears at a 0 degree day at Park City.
Realistically, I think that 10 degrees is my limit if there is no Pow.
Your better off going to the gym to make your body stronger and agile.
Last year believe, Sunshine Village closed the resort because of cold weather.
I was skiing last night at Wachusett -- thermometer at the top was hovering around 0F. That was pretty cold, but it wasn't windy and the snow was fine (except where they had the snow guns blasting). Tolerable if you layered up and used a face mask, though my feet were frozen after a couple hours.
Today they're calling for a low close to 0 at the base, which means the top will be... -10F, maybe, plus wind chill? In the dark? And they're probably making more snow? I'm gonna stay home. I'm guessing most of the school groups will cancel too.
Coldest day I can remember skiing was the first day of the ESA at Stowe a few years ago. I think the high was forecast for 0F, and it was windy. I had to put on every layer I had and was still pretty cold. Ice was forming on the inside of the windshield on the drive to the mountain. With the heater on.
For me the bigger problem is usually wind chill. Wind chill below -10F or so isn't much fun. You can layer up to the point where you're sort of okay while moving, but sitting on the lifts is brutal.
You guys who pack it in on bluebird +10F days are wimps.
For me, the wind is more important than outright temp. I will ski down to 0 F or maybe even -5 or so if it is calm I can stretch it to -10 if calm and sunny. But if the wind is whipping, I will pussy out at anything below zero. Of course I will take extra long breaks to thaw out. I also tend to push my temp limit more on vacation than at the home hill. It is easy to stay home in bed but if I am away, having already paid for a vacation I will push it.
The coldest I remember was at Loveland in 2007 where the high for the day was minus 6 with winds up to 20mph. Never made it to the top ridge which was open. Spent a lot of time in the trees and and their handy warming huts.
Have never not skied cuz of temp. Coldest yet was -17 with 30 mph winds at Stowe many years ago; they shut down the lifts before lunch, so went and rented cross country gear. Skied Telluride a few years back when it was -9 and snowing, got cold damage to my toes, but great powder day!
I remember trying to ski in Vermont when the winchill was -45F. I forget what the actual temp was...somewhere near -30F, I think. We started at 9:00AM, did a few runs, then quit at 10:30 when I threw up at the end of a run. I never got sick from being cold before, but I guess it really affected me.