After the one of the best starts to the ski season for several years, it looks like 2011 will be going out with a bang! Many alpine ski resorts are expecting something in the region of 80 - 110cms of snow over the next 3 days. There are already record snow depths, great conditions and snow cover even in lower resorts.
This all means that Europe is well and truly set up for this ski season!
If you're going to be skiing when the snow is falling and the fog is closing in around you take a look through our top tips for skiing when visibility is limited.
1. Wear goggles not glasses. Goggles really are the best kind of eyewear for white out conditions. If you really must wear glasses then look for glasses with interchangeable lenses. When skiing in heavy snowfall you will usually be experiencing "flat light" - this is when you can't make out any contours of the snow beneath you. Red, pink or orange/yellow tinted lenses will help.
2. Ski/board where there's trees. Skiing above approximately 1800-2000m (in Europe) means that you'll be skiing above the treeline. So there are fewer "landmarks" around to provide definition to your surroundings. Staying a bit lower, in and around tree-lined areas help to provide that definition so it will be easier to see where you're going.
3. Keep the piste markers in sight. If you're high up and in very thick fog it can be disorientating. Keeping sight of the piste markers at the edge of the piste will guide you. Piste markers on the right hand side of the piste have orange or yellow tips - whilst those on the opposite side are all one colour ie the colour of the piste; red, blue, green etc.
4. Do not venture off piste. It may be tempting when you know that there's untracked powder all around you, but as a general rule of thumb in poor visibility - stick to what you know. Foggy, white-out weather means you can't see holes, bumps, rocks, drop offs. Fresh snowfall can easily disguise hazards. If you don't know the area - and even if you think you do - stay on piste.
5. Buddy up. It's always best not to ski alone in extreme white out conditions - at the very least make sure you let people know where you're going.
There can be some great aspects to skiing in a white out. The first few piste runs are often the best of the day - a layer of fresh snow on top of a smoothly pisted run can be the closest thing to heaven on a foggy, snowy day. Get there before anyone else and you'll have had the best skiing of the day!
After that it's also a great opportunity to work on your technique and will provide challenges that you won't get on a sunny, blue sky day.
We all love fairweather skiing - but white out skiing and snowboarding is just as much part of the mountain experience. It's just Mother Nature reminding us who's boss!