By Ron Kubicki, Director of Holiday Valley Snowsports School
From printed and video educational material of Professional Snowsports Instructors of America/ American Association of Snowboard instructors
Welcome to Western New York and the Southern Tier!
If you’ve lived here, or spent winters on the slopes of Holiday Valley, then you know these are not unusual temperatures for us. Add a brisk breeze to this and negative 20, or even negative 40, is not an unusual wind-chill to deal with when on the slopes.
No matter how cold it is, you will see many people out in the snow and cold enjoying themselves. They have learned the correct way to dress for these conditions. If you want to get away from the window at Yodeler, follow a couple simple rules, so you can join the fun. First, cover your extremities:
• Feet – modern ski and snowboard boots are designed for the cold, so stick with one pair of light to medium weight socks, and spend a little on some hi-tech wicking and insulating ski/snowboard socks. Cotton socks = cold feet, guaranteed.Even in these temps, your feet will likely sweat, and cotton holds moisture and robs your feet of heat.
• Hands – a good pair of gloves with light liners are very effective, but if you prefer mittens, they will be warmer. Just be sure that your hands do not sweat. Wet = cold.
• Head – Wear a hat or helmet! Claims differ from 20 to 40 percent of your body heat is lost through an uncovered head. Hats and helmets also cover your ears, which are very prone to frostbite.
• Face – Technically, your face is part of your head, but it should be addressed specifically as nose and cheeks are very vulnerable to frostbite. Goggles will keep your face warmer than just sunglasses, and face masks in the most extreme temps will keep you very well protected.
Ask friends, lift attendants or chair-mates to check for white patches of skin on your face, and do likewise for them. If some are discovered, immediately go inside. This is, typically, the first indication of frostbite. Do not rub to warm, just sit indoors, maybe cover the area with your hand and let your body reestablish circulation to this area; if the white area has a red discoloration in the center; go immediately to ski patrol and seek assistance. This is a more severe level of frostbite and needs specific attention.
Now that your extremities are prepared, you need to dress to keep your core warm. Skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing all have levels of exertion that cause your body to sweat. Keep your core warm and dry through layering; wear a hi-tech first layer against your skin, something that wicks moisture away from you; again, wear a cotton T-shirt or undergarment and you will be wet.
Add another lightly insulated layer, then an exterior layer that has layers of air trapped in it, which will retain your body heat. Down is excellent, but there are many other extremely effective types of filler in all quality garments. These multiple layers trap layers of air, which captures and retains the heat your body is dissipating. You do not need a lot of layers to achieve a level of comfort. As your activity increases or the day warms, you are able to shed layers and retain a comfortable temperature to continue skiing and riding throughout the day.
Take frequent breaks and hydrate yourself. You expel a lot of moisture in the cold. The fact that you can “see” your breath is testimony to that. Eat small nourishing snacks to keep your metabolism up. Remove layers when indoors so you do not overheat and sweat. Undo your boots, or better yet, change socks midway through the day.
These are all common sense guidelines that you have probably heard before, but it never hurts to revisit and remind yourself and others that you need to dress for conditions if you want to enjoy your day. Remember, the first ride up Mardi Gras in the morning may be the coldest part of day for you, but if you are dressed right, even that will be an enjoyable and scenic ride.
On another note, these temperatures are when you will be around snow making. Throughout the day, you will be skiing or riding through or around snow making towers, or some snow is likely to blow on you on your lift ride. These are also conditions you need to expect.
People ask; “Why are they making snow now?” The answer is; “Because they can!”
These temperatures allowing us to make snow are what give us great March and April conditions. If you see the guys in the heavy outdoor gear and hardhats, hauling hoses and moving guns, give them a “thumbs up.”
These guys and the crews work around the clock at Holiday Valley, and are out in the all the weather, all hours of the day and night, to give us the great conditions we all expect from the professional team at Holiday Valley
Have a great day on snow, and stop and say “hello” if we cross each other’s tracks!