or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Skiing in dense fog / very low visibility conditions
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Skiing in dense fog / very low visibility conditions

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 

Who has some great strategies and techniques for handling very low visibility conditions? Is there a good way to cope with this and still ski effectively, other than sticking to the trees?


Last weekend, I was in a wide open bowl with no trees in sight. It had been snowing heavily all day, and I refused to leave my power wonderland because of something silly like visibility. Suddenly a heavy cloud bank rolled in as well. Complete disorientation...no horizon...swimming in milk.  At one point, and I actually stopped to get my bearings, and suddenly fell over out of nowhere: I'd started sliding backwards in the powder and didn't feel or sense the movement until I slid into a bump.


This is by no means the first time this kind of thing happened to me, but it was the most dramatic, and it was the first time I gave some real thought on how to do it better.


It was actually kind of fun in a perverse way...skiing essentially by feel. It adds an entirely new dimension to how you experience the feel and sound of skiing, because that's all you have, and it becomes extra important  to be 100% aware of your balance and positioning over your skis in preparation for unexpected terrain changes (since they are all unexpected).


This doesn't happen particularly often in CO, so I suspect we can learn something from our PNW and NE brethren who run into heavy fog more often!

post #2 of 39

Practice your balance work, blind.


The way to go on this is the beamfit system which is just like a balance beam but the ground.


if you don't have a beamfit at your gym, just use a 2x4 on the ground or something else to balance on.  Walk on it straight heel-toe (no dancers feet).  till you find the end, and then back the other way.  Practice turning both directions.  

Do it first with eyes just looking straight, then later when you are advanced do it eyes closed. 


Use bare feet to maximize feel.  Practice also arching so you are looking up to the ceiling or back wall (eyes closed) so your can balance when your your head not just looking forward.


If you have a beamfit DVD or instructor they have other exercises to learn and practice too

post #3 of 39

then, also as far as skiing; You can practice old school classic ski techniques where you must make some nice turns in rhythm all the way down the piste with the precision of a metronome.   Just like they do in Europe or those old ski videos where a line of skiers follows the leader exactly cutting moguls. 


Pick a line and practice turning right on a beat the whole way down, which will force you to be able to make a turn on the beat, regardless of what is under you.  The europeans sometimes do it in pairs or teams and shout out the beat as they're going down the line, just like the coxswain in a crew rowing team.  Try it late in the day with chopped up snow

post #4 of 39
Stay out of wide bowls.

If it's too late for that, try and analyze where the sun is in the sky. Now figure out how the bowl curves in relation to that invisible sun and traverse to a point where the surface is NOT perpendicular to the sun. Ski slower. Once you are down, stick to narrower trails, defined by trees. Pick trails with more surface texture, freshies are nice, but untracked is not your friend if there is nothing else to give you visual clues. Crud is much easier in these conditions. Follow others, using them as your trees.

Also, undulating terrain and bowls where the pitch is gradually changing are real challenges. Stay away. Best terrain will be facing away from the sun. And, of course, trees.
post #5 of 39

I'm sure a lot of us have had the experience of skiing in a white out, stopping, and then falling over. While balance exercises might help some, and while skiing something steep enough to orient the body also helps in my experience--flats are the hardest--, the real problem is not staying upright but knowing where you are going. I've had the experience of completely losing my sense of where I was in dense fog or white out in places where I had been hundreds of times before--in one case nearly skiing OB until I happened to run into a sign, and in another being unable to find a lift in a very heavily travelled, well marked part of the mountain. When things are that bad, IMO the best thing to do is stay in the trees or go home. And definitely don't try it in a new place. 

post #6 of 39
Been there myself. Not this year, though! Last year?? Whoa. I now know that "two chair" is great viz, but NO chair?? Time to go home.... Very slowly...
post #7 of 39
post #8 of 39
Originally Posted by LiveJazz View Post


This doesn't happen particularly often in CO, so I suspect we can learn something from our PNW and NE brethren who run into heavy fog more often!


Actually, the first time I experienced this was at Vail on the traverse from the chair over to the top of Ghengis Khan, if memory serves.  It was a white out with no visual bearings. I thought I was moving, but I was not - until just tipped over. I had a similar experience at Powder Mountain last month as well, though I did not crumble.

Next time I face that situation I am going to close my eyes and trust the rest of my senses. I have not researched the physiology but would not be surpirsed to find that the brain strains to "see" when the eyes are open. And if there is no sensory data, there is a measure of cognitive dissonance that the brain cannot reconcile - rather like walking with eyes open in pitch darkness. Once the eyes are closed so is that portal to the brain which must then heighten the other senses. If I am right about this, the propensity for vertigo is reduced because the brain is gettng exactly what it is expecting from the eyes - nothing.


post #9 of 39

Crawl on your hands and knees.  ;)

post #10 of 39

Seeing is so over rated. You don't need to see to ski. :D


It's often pea soup here at the bird. I often ski Regulator off the tram as warm up in the morning and after lunch (Mrs. Grump hates it).


I find that not staring into the fog help a lot. I'll consciously soften my gaze into the white abyss. There is nothing to see anyway. I generally balance over the center of my ski and keep the ski on the snow at all time. I also make my turns very round without any flat spots. Concentrate on feeling the ski flexing - either due to gradual increase resistance from the snow thru out the turn or encountered terrain variations (bumps or ridges).


In addition, I will widen the spread of my arm to better feel the pull of gravity - creating a horizon with wings like a banking airplane. Last but not least - tell yourself you are having a great time and enjoy the texture of the snow. Attitude is probably the single most important item in pea soup skiing.        

post #11 of 39
Had a no chair day today. After three times just "trusting in the Lord" as I intentionally picked up speed in anticipation of a flat cat track I decided that I was being really foolish and came home. Snow in the trees was great, return to chair not so great, in fact pretty scary.

Rode with a couple on the lift who asked me how to get to the backside. I gave then a hard look before answering. Because we were on the back side... They had thought they were headed down one run, were actually on another and had made more than one run not understanding why the trail map was so different than the terrain.

The head vertical champion was actually inside eating lunch... In ten years, I've never known that to happen. The Summit House, a large lodge at the summit, was not visible from the chair as you passed it.

Naturally, as I walked to the car after shedding all my gear in the locker room, the sun came out.

I did notice that lightly dragging my uphill pole to judge pitch was slightly reassuring.
post #12 of 39

"Use the force (insert your name here)" - Obi-Wan Kenobi 

post #13 of 39
My force is weak at 62.
post #14 of 39
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

 Pick trails with more surface texture, freshies are nice, but untracked is not your friend if there is nothing else to give you visual clues. Crud is much easier in these conditions. Follow others, using them as your trees.


If visibility is so bad I'm having trouble seeing snow features, I would much rather have things be untracked than tracked out.


I think when you lose your horizon and lose visual landmarks like trees, a lot of people tend to start staring directly at the only thing they can see- their ski tips. Staring straight down at your feet is a great way to get further disoriented. Better is to use the tips as your frame of reference to look downhill, keeping the ski tips at the very bottom of your field of reference.


Skiing blind is a lot like skiing powder in general- keep yourself in stance that allows you to quickly adapt to changing conditions- be fore/aft balanced and off your heels, don't transfer a lot of weight between skis during turns, be ready to adapt to what you find.

post #15 of 39

I do a lot of skiing early season on wide open runs with my Eyes closed. Literally eyes closesd. after I started training myself to not rely just on my eyes for balance low light and zero visability has become a lot easier. Today we had low visability, with rain falling on 3-6 inches of new snow turning it to Glue. @JRN  was skiing with me and man what a tough condtions. 

post #16 of 39

Another thing that helps is bumps--not as much visual reference as trees but some. Watch out for cornices, wind lips, drops onto cattracks. 

Edited by oldgoat - 3/28/14 at 4:34pm
post #17 of 39
Leave your skis and boots at home. Find a bar. Have a drink, have another, have another and another. Then try and find your way home!
post #18 of 39

Spend a season at Targhee and you'll get it figured out.

post #19 of 39
If the visibility is like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs84IToERPA, then you keep your balance centered, keep your legs soft, and most importantly keep your head up. Your head needs to be up because, in those conditions, you can't rely on your peripheral vision to track the objects (including people) around you.

If the visibility is so bad that you can't see anything around you and can't even tell which way is down, then you shouldn't be skiing.
post #20 of 39
Technique for this?


Last week. 😁

I think that is about the same vantage point as this.

post #21 of 39
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Technique for this?




Looks like you'd have better visibility in the tree well.

post #22 of 39
I took five other pictures that day, but the camera refused to focus and all are some dark thing with the same white swirl, identical, even though taken on different trails. Apparently auto equals abstract art in some conditions.
post #23 of 39
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Technique for this?


Last week. 😁


During our Euro gathering, I took the others through a brief patch of something like that on our way to finding the good snow. They were glad that I knew my way around St. Anton reasonably well.

It's not too uncommon for me to be skiing through stuff like that. As long as I can see the basic outline of the sign, then I'm good. It means I won't run into any upright objects without seeing them.
post #24 of 39
That was the whole extent of the mountain.
post #25 of 39

How long did you stay before going home?

(Just doing a sanity check here.)

post #26 of 39
Four hours?
post #27 of 39

I have skied all to many days this season in these conditions, seems to be more of them each year. Or it is just bad trip timing on my part.


Given today's technology, it's about time for someone to invent a battery operated (think Hotronic type battery pack) LED fog lights that would strap on the legs at knee level. Would be the size of a GoPro.

I think it could work, couldn't hurt, and might make this pea soup fun.

post #28 of 39
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Four hours?

...hopefully in the woods???  

Still checking....

post #29 of 39
Here and there, but part of the day was with a friend who is not a tree skier and there is NO WAY to escape the non-treed returns. Last run was first down a green where "Lord, guide me" was involved to a treed area, gorgeous snow but untracked, then back to more "Lord, guide me," with fast, smoothly ridged cat track. The return was so terrifying that I snowplowed a good bit of it because those ridges were edge catchers on a good day. That was when I decided I was nuts. Was trying to watch the ridges so I knew which way the trail was heading, which was not helping the queasiness. Trail is only fifteen feet wide in the wider sections. Tried to think of where I could go to avoid this, thought of Good Med, but there is a return from that as well. Decided four hours was plenty. Felt like ten.
post #30 of 39

Well.  Interesting.  How did your friend do?

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Skiing in dense fog / very low visibility conditions