The words ‘white-out’ or ‘snow blizzard’ don’t immediately conjure up the ideal skiing conditions. But some of my best days skiing have been in the middle of a white-out. Sure, they don’t match the glorious blue-bird powder days we all long for, but they come a close second.
Why We Love Skiing in a White-Out
More white stuff
For want of stating the obvious, a blizzard or white out means that there is snow falling on the mountain. This means there’s more fun stuff to play in and fresh tracks to be had. Ice and slush? No chance if it’s snowing.
There are precious few days of the year you can march up to the ski lifts with a pair of skis that are 110cm underfoot. A whiteout is one of them (providing there’s a decent enough base). And don’t forget your avalanche kit and an instructor to teach you how to stay safe off-piste.
While everyone else has taken one look out the curtains, seen a blizzard, and retreated back to bed, you’ll be charging around the mountain having fresh tracks for breakfast. Yesterday I counted 3 people on the mountain before 10.30 am.
As the mountain is empty, you’re first to pick of where you’re going to ride. It’s a great feeling to be the first to carve out lines in untouched snow. You also get the fun jumps and tree lines before anyone else.
Rewarded with Blue Sky
Often, in a whiteout, the top of the mountain is shut to set off avalanche canons. This is to ensure the ski area is safe, by deliberately firing canons onto the new snow to cause avalanches. This prevents avalanches from happening when the mountain is back open again. If you can make it to the top of the mountain, later on in the day, then you’re rewarded with a tiny patch of blue sky.
Our Top Tips
- Stick to runs that go through the trees. It is so much easier to see in a whiteout when you are in areas with trees or landmarks as they provide the definition and improved spacial awareness.
- Use the piste markers. If you are in an area away from trees, or in an area such as the Espace Killy where trees are few and far between, make sure you use the piste markers and follow them down the piste. This way you can be sure that you won’t get lost. AND…the pole to the right-hand side of the piste always has an orange top. This way you always know if you are on piste on the right side of the piste marker
- Never ski alone. We recommend skiing in pairs. It is so much easier to ski behind someone, so splitting your group into pairs and putting better skiers at the front should make it easier. It will also prevent anyone from getting lost. If you are skiing in a group, stick together, and discuss the number of turns you are going to make before stopping, or the number of piste markers you plan to pass before you stop. Or even make a strategy for where you’re all going to meet up again, like a lift station – just in case anyone gets lost. You’ll all know where to meet.
- Always stay on piste unless you really know the run and exactly where you are. It can be disorientating when it’s a white-out. While on-piste there is no risk of falling off a drop, so make sure you’re aware of your surroundings when playing in all the fresh snow.
- Book an instructor so they can show you the best places to go, where you’ll have the snow to yourself. We have a whole range of new off-piste adventures lessons with the Ski Club of Great Britain. Does the video below look like something you’d be interested in?