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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

7 Tips for Dealing with the Wind Skiing and Snowboarding

By: Maya Silver
If you love to ski, you know that not everyday will be a bluebird one. Sometimes, temperatures sink into the teens, single digits, or even negatives. Other times, clouds with silver linings bring heavy snow that means super fun powder but also difficult visibility and tired legs. And then there's my least favorite element of them all: wind.

loveland peak view
view from atop Loveland
Recently, my friend and I arrived at the top of Lift 9 at Loveland--already nervous about the line we were going to take—and robust gusts greeted us from all directions. As I tightened my boots, I wondered how anyone was supposed to ski in wind this strong! We made our way to the top of the run we were planning to take and covered our faces as the wind blew icy snow onto our faces. I noticed a few people bailing, sidestepping up the run, and wondered if we should do the same. Between the steepness of the pitch below, and the swirls of snow blown up by the wind, I couldn't see the run below at all. But rather than bail, we set our focus to making turns and it ended up being the best run of the day.

Needless to say, skiing in strong winds can be a less than pleasant experience. But if you've driven a long way to ski, or are determined to get some runs in, here are some tips for dealing with the wind while skiing.

  1. Wear a good buff. Whether you're riding up a windy lift or skiing into a strong headwind, those gusts are rough on your face. Buy a good buff or balaclava. To get maximum impact out of your buff, slip it around your neck and then pull the back side over your head, and the front side over your face. The front will be easily adjustable for when the wind calms down or if you need a big gulp of fresh air.

  1. Seal up! Make sure all of your layers are all zipped up, including jacket or pant vents. Tuck your gloves or mittens into your sleeves, and your shirt into your pants. And tighten those goggles! Even the smallest gap is an opportunity for the wind to come knockin'.
  1. Protect your skin with vaseline. Ever looked in the mirror after skiing on a windy day? Your face might be wind burnt with red, chapped skin. Applying vaseline or lotion to your face and lips can help prevent windburn.
  1. Focus and use positive mantras. When you get to the top of a high lift and strong gusts began assaulting you, you may begin to feel disoriented and out-of-control. Strong winds can make steep pitches look even steeper, and up your anxiety. Sometimes, they can literally blow you over! Remind yourself that you are in control, take deep breaths, and focus on your line. Tighten your core to maintain your form, and repeat something like, “Wind, you aren't the boss of me!” as you make your way down the slope.

  1. Beware of wind-blown snow. Strong wind can make for some seriously funky snow conditions. Wind-blown slabs can create swaths of unevenly built-up, hardened snow. This is ACL-tearing territory! Take your turns slowly and be on the lookout for these conditions.

  1. Stay away from the high lifts. Some lifts and areas of resorts are windier than others. If the wind is unbearable, stick to lower areas that don't get as much wind.

  1. Take breaks. Strong winds can take it out of you. To maintain your focus and keep morale high, take drink breaks to warm up and regain your composure before you go and face the wind again.