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Anyone ever ski during a thunderstorm?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I'm sure they close the lifts when there's lightning, just as they do when there are high winds. But you could be a patroller, stuck on the top, who had to get down during a storm. Or you could have hiked up.

 

Just curious.

post #2 of 27

I've skied in Thundersnow.  Dumping huge wet flakes with lightning flashes and yes, they closed the lifts. I was already on top.

I think the Thorguard lightning detectors are good for about 20 miles, but storms can travel pretty fast.

post #3 of 27

Why yes... it sucked and was scary as hell... got off the hill ASAP. 

post #4 of 27

twice, its scary for sure- get off the mountain or into a lodge. I was on the lift at the time. Not a good place to be.

post #5 of 27

This happened at the epic gathering in Vail a couple of years ago. I've been in thundersnow at Vail more than anywhere else, actually. 

post #6 of 27

One of my best days was in a thunderstorm. There was a massive accumulation of small hail (maybe a foot?) which skied great. I heard lots of thunder but didn't see much nearby lightning. I had KT all to myself with untracked laps - unheard of at Squaw. Rain, not snow, was forcast for the day so my wife refused to ski - along with almost everybody else. Too bad! I can't remember if I quit because my legs were spent or if the lightning got close but I had a fantastic time for a while.

Eric

post #7 of 27

Once, two seasons ago at Heavenly.  My group was literally on the last chair going up Sky Express before they closed it, which made the ride up scary.  We pretty much straight-lined it back to the top of Gunbarrel and went inside.

post #8 of 27
Me too, but not for long...
post #9 of 27

Several times and got the hell off the mountain asap.  One time I was coaching USSA racers in the UP and we had heavy rain, fog and then thunder and lightening.  Nobody would call off the race but I finally pulled all my kids off the hill after a lightening strike.  After that, the race was called.  I was hard core but you always lose an argument with lightening particularly when on a big pile of snow, your are holding metal poles and you are soaking wet.

 

Bill

post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

This happened at the epic gathering in Vail a couple of years ago. I've been in thundersnow at Vail more than anywhere else, actually. 

 

And what started out as boilerplate turned into an awesome ski day. biggrin.gif

 

snowfalling.gif

post #11 of 27

Skied in thunderstorm on several occasions.  I'm a patroller.  Not fun but the snow was great.

 

Also skied in a thunder snow storm at Vail a number of years ago.  I weird kind of pellet like snow was coming down, just dumping.  The closed the lifts and everyone was skiing down.  Kinda nuts - panicked people trying to get off the hill.  

 

J.

post #12 of 27
I never have been caught, but when you all mention how scary it is, it makes want to use carbon composite poles instead of waving aluminum poles through the air.  I wonder if anyone has ever been struck?
post #13 of 27

Duplicate post....

post #14 of 27

Lightening hits high points--doesn't matter if it's metal or not.

Never skied in a thunderstorm but have been caught too many times climbing and hiking. It's no fun when your climbing gear starts to hum. One bad stretch in the Wind Rivers we had thunderstorms 9 days in a row, mostly all day but a couple of days looked promising enough to climb--bad mistake.  Some guy rapped off Wolf's Head, heard an explosion, climbed back up the rope and found his wife had been vaporized. We weren't hit ourselves, but not for lack of trying. 

post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post

Lightening hits high points--doesn't matter if it's metal or not.

Never skied in a thunderstorm but have been caught too many times climbing and hiking. It's no fun when your climbing gear starts to hum. One bad stretch in the Wind Rivers we had thunderstorms 9 days in a row, mostly all day but a couple of days looked promising enough to climb--bad mistake.  Some guy rapped off Wolf's Head, heard an explosion, climbed back up the rope and found his wife had been vaporized. We weren't hit ourselves, but not for lack of trying. 

 

That's not a bet I'm willing to make.

post #16 of 27

Standard protocol for lighting at our resort is to close lifts at the first sound of thunder for 30 mins. Give skiers at the bottom of the remote lift a ride/tow out. Open 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder. It's only happened once at the area.

Two years ago I was hiking up to medbow peak (summer), 2 hours into the hike, about half way up medicine bow. A thunderstorm rolled over and lightning started hitting diamond peak and schoolhouse rock. We slapped our skis on and skied out in about 30 minutes. Scared the s**t out of me!

post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinVB View Post

I never have been caught, but when you all mention how scary it is, it makes want to use carbon composite poles instead of waving aluminum poles through the air.  I wonder if anyone has ever been struck?

Well... unfortunately your body contains a large amount of water, I don't think aluminum or carbon would matter, you are the conductor.

post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by snowyphil65 View Post

Standard protocol for lighting at our resort is to close lifts at the first sound of thunder for 30 mins. Give skiers at the bottom of the remote lift a ride/tow out. Open 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder. It's only happened once at the area.

Two years ago I was hiking up to medbow peak (summer), 2 hours into the hike, about half way up medicine bow. A thunderstorm rolled over and lightning started hitting diamond peak and schoolhouse rock. We slapped our skis on and skied out in about 30 minutes. Scared the s**t out of me!

 

I coach high school students (not skiing). We have the same rules for being on the field. Even though there are plenty of things higher than the kids (and metal), we can't risk it.

 

I knew a football coach who had been struck two or three times (maybe only twice . . . but definitely more than once) despite - or maybe because - coaching on a flat field with tall metal lights towering above him. If it even looked like there might be an electrical storm, the players were lifting weights inside. Can't say that I blame him . . .

post #19 of 27

While lightning can be unpredictable, it isn't magical.  You don't get zapped because you are a conductor, you get zapped because you have been collecting charge.  The clouds have charge in them as well.  As you collect charge, you start to rise to a potential energy so that you are closest in potential to the clouds compared to other items around you.  When you get to be a potential such that the voltage difference between you and the cloud is higher than than the dielectric constant of the air between you, a short occurs and current flows between you and the cloud.

 

It doesn't matter how physically high you are, although if you do have charge accumulating on you and you decrease the separation you decrease the potential needed to bridge the dielectric (air) between you.  

 

If you want to be safe, you need to conduct the charge on you to ground so that you are at the same potential as the dirt or whatever the lowest potential/voltage object around you is at.  That's why lightning rods that are on top of higher structures are connected by a beefy conductor to a rod driven into the ground - preferrably into a wet (i.e. conducting) substrate that has a lot of capacity to take charge and reduce the potential.  Structures that get hit with lighting even though they have lightning rods are usually because the rod and ground rod have lost a connection to earth ground.  That can happen through corrosion and if the, for example, the ground rod is in dry powdery earth as can happen in drought conditions.  

 

The reason lifts are a problem is that they are great place to accumulate charge and it's almost impossible to properly and continuously ground them throughout the span.  They are also high structures - much higher than anything surrounding them and therefore likely to get hit by lightning.  Most lift maintenance people will tell you that lifts get hit all the time in the summer by lightning.  

 

So, what you want to do to be safe is to make sure you are in as good of a conductor you can be so that all charge is drained off of you.  That example of a person climbing and hanging from a non conducting rope in a high place means that person is the *perfect* place for charge to accumulate and being high up means there is less dielectric (insulator) for the lightning to have to traverse.  It's absolutely the wrong place to be.

 

I would think that a skier on a hill (although I haven't tested this) is actually pretty safe.  If you stay off the ridge lines and ski near the tree lines, I don't see this as any particular danger and a pretty low risk of being hit by lightning. Although ski boots and other gear is not electrically grounded or connected to one another.    Now that coach, standing alone on a field wearing rubber shoes is - again - the perfect place to accumulate charge.  There is no other place or thing that would look more attractive.  In either case, getting down fast is a good idea just because you don't know anything about how well you are grounded.

 

Charge can accumulate on anything and that includes non conducting surfaces.  As long as there is no place for it to be shorted to ground, it can accumulate and make that object a target of lightning.  It has to do with charge accumulation and conducting materials (unless they are grounded) or physical height isn't as important.

post #20 of 27
I skied at Silver Mt in a thunderstorm once years ago, with quite active lightning. Apparently it struck a tower of the lift we were on. Closed for the day after that.
post #21 of 27
Yes. Couple of times. Can't remember the details for some reason.
post #22 of 27

Yep, a few times, there's thunder outside right now actually (central Hokkaido), not going skiing though. 

 

This shot was taken in the Indian Himalayas near Manali, hiking up with that weird light you get in a thunderstorm. 

 

post #23 of 27

Yep, thundersnow  eek.gif

 

I always love to ski during storms so when mother nature brings it, I want to be out in it!!!

post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post

While lightning can be unpredictable, it isn't magical.  You don't get zapped because you are a conductor, you get zapped because you have been collecting charge.  The clouds have charge in them as well.  As you collect charge, you start to rise to a potential energy so that you are closest in potential to the clouds compared to other items around you.  When you get to be a potential such that the voltage difference between you and the cloud is higher than than the dielectric constant of the air between you, a short occurs and current flows between you and the cloud.

 

It doesn't matter how physically high you are, although if you do have charge accumulating on you and you decrease the separation you decrease the potential needed to bridge the dielectric (air) between you.  

 

If you want to be safe, you need to conduct the charge on you to ground so that you are at the same potential as the dirt or whatever the lowest potential/voltage object around you is at.  That's why lightning rods that are on top of higher structures are connected by a beefy conductor to a rod driven into the ground - preferrably into a wet (i.e. conducting) substrate that has a lot of capacity to take charge and reduce the potential.  Structures that get hit with lighting even though they have lightning rods are usually because the rod and ground rod have lost a connection to earth ground.  That can happen through corrosion and if the, for example, the ground rod is in dry powdery earth as can happen in drought conditions.  

 

The reason lifts are a problem is that they are great place to accumulate charge and it's almost impossible to properly and continuously ground them throughout the span.  They are also high structures - much higher than anything surrounding them and therefore likely to get hit by lightning.  Most lift maintenance people will tell you that lifts get hit all the time in the summer by lightning.  

 

So, what you want to do to be safe is to make sure you are in as good of a conductor you can be so that all charge is drained off of you.  That example of a person climbing and hanging from a non conducting rope in a high place means that person is the *perfect* place for charge to accumulate and being high up means there is less dielectric (insulator) for the lightning to have to traverse.  It's absolutely the wrong place to be.

 

I would think that a skier on a hill (although I haven't tested this) is actually pretty safe.  If you stay off the ridge lines and ski near the tree lines, I don't see this as any particular danger and a pretty low risk of being hit by lightning. Although ski boots and other gear is not electrically grounded or connected to one another.    Now that coach, standing alone on a field wearing rubber shoes is - again - the perfect place to accumulate charge.  There is no other place or thing that would look more attractive.  In either case, getting down fast is a good idea just because you don't know anything about how well you are grounded.

 

Charge can accumulate on anything and that includes non conducting surfaces.  As long as there is no place for it to be shorted to ground, it can accumulate and make that object a target of lightning.  It has to do with charge accumulation and conducting materials (unless they are grounded) or physical height isn't as important.

Lightening will tend to strike points that are not necessarily high but are prominent compared to the surroundings.  That's why golfers are such popular targets. That's why standing under a lone tree is a bad idea--while the lightening hits the tree, there's plenty of current to go through you--while skiing in a forest wold be a lot lower risk.  And a lot of people are injured not by being struck but by ground current from a nearby stike--particularly if topography puts them along the current path. I was on top of Mt  Mitchell in the Winds watching lightening strike the summits of each peak in the Cirque of the Towers in turn, each one closer than the last.  I didn't wait around.  

post #25 of 27

I did once. Was at a really small hill. I was on the lift as thunder and lightning popped out of nowhere (it had been supposed to just rain).  It was a nervous lift ride and then we booked it down and into the lodge.

post #26 of 27

Yep, most of us who ski a lot get caught out there once or twice.

 

I was even Downhill Mt biking at Killington a few years backs and the guy at the top told me I had to stay inside with him until the thunder storm pasted.

 

There weren't many people out that day until it cleared up.

post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post

Lightening will tend to strike points that are not necessarily high but are prominent compared to the surroundings.  That's why golfers are such popular targets. That's why standing under a lone tree is a bad idea--while the lightening hits the tree, there's plenty of current to go through you--while skiing in a forest wold be a lot lower risk.  And a lot of people are injured not by being struck but by ground current from a nearby stike--particularly if topography puts them along the current path. I was on top of Mt  Mitchell in the Winds watching lightening strike the summits of each peak in the Cirque of the Towers in turn, each one closer than the last.  I didn't wait around.  

It's all electrical and it's not geographical.  It's simply a case of where the charge collects and if the potential (voltage) between the charge in the clouds and the point on land gets high enough to bridge the insulator (air).  That's it.  Nothing else.  That's why lightning is so unpredictable.  You can't tie it to a geography, to a feature or anything else until you know what is going to happen when the charge collects.  Because you can't see it and because most people don't understand it, it seems wild and unpredictable.

 

I've sailed through many thunderstorm.  There is nothing "higher" than a sailboat mast on a large body of water.  Never been hit but we've always made sure that there was an excellent electrical connection between the mast and the grounding plug in the hull.  To the charge in the clouds, we look like more water.

 

If you hang from a nonconducting rope out in the free air where you can't drain off your charge, you are just asking to get hit.  You're like one of the plates of a capacitor and when the voltage gets too high between the plates, it arcs across and the capacitor blows up.

 

J.

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