A Cold Day in Heaven

Warm spring days are ahead, but let’s take a moment to reflect on those cold days on the slopes.

A cold day at Eldora means little competition from the masses for hill space.

Years ago, I skied at Stowe, Vermont, in weather so frigid my trapezoid muscles were sore the next day from scrunching up my shoulders and shivering so aggressively. My husband and I skied exactly one run and headed for the bar. I really do love to ski when the sun is shining and the temps are mild.
However—however!—snow sports are, by nature, cold-weather endeavors. If it weren’t for the diving mercury, we wouldn’t have that lovely powdery surface to ski and ride on. What I’m saying is that skiers and snowboarders should embrace the cold. Put on your woolies and get on out there.

Lessons from Antarctica

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” quipped Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who was the first person to cross Antarctica on foot and who circumnavigated the globe’s polar axis, a three-year, 52,000-mile expedition. And he summited Everest at 65. The man has a point.

Note the temps. Low of 7 degrees. Brrrr.

Some weeks ago, temps were slated to be in the neighborhood of minus 5 and 14 F. The temptation to stay home in front of the fire was fierce. I decided to brave the weather and head for Eldora. If Fiennes can walk across a continent in frigid temps, surely I could ski for a day, with a lodge and a cup of cocoa moments away.

Gearing Up to Brave the Cold

The night before, I laid out my puffy PrimaLoft vest, my extra-thick Roxy Biotherm neck gaiter (the one that’s infused with a lovely smelling, skin-soothing lotion), and what I like to call my fat pants (they are insulated, so they put on a good 10 pounds).

These are my fat pants. They add warm and the appearance of an extra 10 pounds.

I charged up my Hotronic boot heater batteries—my husband calls them boot cheaters—and tucked my boots into my Athalon heated boot bag, so my boots would be as soft and warm as slippers when I pulled into Eldora’s parking lot. I loaded up my day pack with disposable hand warmers.

Indeed the day was cold, with temps hovering around 10 degrees and a mighty wind whipping up. I skied eight runs off Corona before I stopped for a hot cup of Joe.

There’s Lots of Elbow Room When the Mercury Drops

Here’s the great thing about skiing in the cold: You have the place practically to yourself. There are, indeed, a lot of fair-weather skiers out there, so on chilly days, the trails are blissfully empty. The people you meet on the chair are a hearty bunch. There’s a camaraderie among the diehards. We’re all facing this cold front together.

My daughter wears a ColdAvenger mask that warms cold air. We call it Darth Vader chic.

The snow can be perfect. The day before I skied Eldora, it had snowed a foot (my husband could tell you about that), and I was still finding untracked pockets of light, dry snow. They don’t call it “cold smoke” for nothing. When it’s too warm, all that fresh snow can turn heavy and crusty.

There’s beauty in a winter landscape that only comes with the right mix of meteorological inputs. When supercooled water combines with high winds and subzero temperatures, rime can form on the trees, turning them to fantastical snow ghosts. Rippled patterns form in snow windswept overnight, and in the morning the snow crystals sparkle in the textured snow like diamonds.

Gorgeous snow-covered trees in Steamboat are a spectacular side effect of the cold.

Cold Karma?

I ran into a friend in the lodge who told me he always skis on the cold days, because in his mind, it’s a matter of paying it forward. In a Karmic twist, he figures, ski in the cold in January, and you’ll be rewarded with warm days in March. I don’t know if it really works that way. But who am I to mess with somebody’s view of the universe?

There’s also a sense of accomplishment to braving the weather. I was proud of having outwitted Mother Nature with good gear choices. Really, I was warm all day, cocooned in my fat pants and puffy vest.

Don’t get me wrong, though. When it’s bluebird and warm this spring, I’ll be skiing. And I’ll like it. But there’s something to be said for a cold day.

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