The season has started with a bang! Loads of snow has fallen across Europe over the last 10 days or so, and there's more in the forecast. It's looking like it could be a record opening for many resorts - with snow depths already being measured in the metres, even in non-glacial resorts. The majority of ski resorts in Europe have opened last weekend, 15th December, some with limited opening. The rest will be opening for this weekend in preparation for the Christmas week revellers.
It's looking like Christmas week will start mild and get colder. At the moment it's hard to say exactly but meteofrance for example is forecasting positive temperatures for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day becoming sub-zero by Boxing Day.
Skiing in December and January can often throw up different challenges as you try to cope with cold, wind, snow etc. How best can you prepare for changing weather and conditions? Here's some top tips to help!
1. Layer Up
It really is best to have good technical base layers. Forget your cotton vest and long johns, you need a wicking fabric which draws perspiration away from the skin. This is as important for beginners as it is for experts. Beginners will expend more energy in the early days than intermediates - the effort of staying upright and getting up after a fall for example, coupled with having to deal with unfamiliar equipment, will get you working up a sweat. On cold nursery slopes in December and January, which are often in the shadows, any moisture on the skin can cause you to get very cold very quickly. Wicking base layers means the skin stays dry and keeps warm.
In milder temperatures the layering system means that you can easily drop a layer if you need to. Remember also that at this time of year when the days are at their shortest, the amount of direct sun you'll get will be minimal.
2. Morning Checklist
It's easy to forget those little extras which make life more bearable - especially if you haven't been on the slopes since last year. If you have kids to organise it's also a headache making sure they have everything with them. One seasoned ski mum we know posts a checklist in a very visible area - so that each family member will see it before they walk out. Her checklist includes essentials such as lift pass, goggles, ski poles, lip salve, gloves. sun screen. It's a good idea to have your own checklist and make sure everyone refers to it before leaving the accommodation.
3. Eyewear - Make it Goggles
Goggles are really the only eyewear you should be wearing if the weather and light are bad. Goggle lenses allow more light in than sunglasses and provide better protection. Go for orange/red tinted goggles which give better visibility on "flat light" days - those times when it could be white-out conditions, or cloudy, and it's hard to see the contours of the slope.
Treat your goggles well and they will last you years. Always use a goggle cloth to wipe the outside, never tissues or a sleeve etc, and NEVER wipe the inside of your goggles. This will just wipe off the protective coating and mean that they will steam up quicker.
4. Neckwarmers - the Skiers and Snowboarders friend
It's difficult to under-estimate how useful and effective these little items are. The neckwarmer covers that area between the top of your jacket and the bottom of your hat/helmet - commonly known as the neck! They also block out the wind and snow. They can be pulled up to cover part of your face on a cold chairlift. Choose one that's in a technical fabric so they will dry quickly and be ready to use everyday.
5. Boots - Dry them out at the end of day
Wherever you're staying make sure you can keep your boots in a heated area overnight so that any dampness is dried out before the next morning. Moisture in your boots will quickly freeze and cause cold toes and feet - which can severely affect your enjoyment.
Whether you're heading out for the festive season or shortly after we'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you have a great and magical ski holiday!