We all cross our fingers and hope that when we’re out on a week’s ski holiday, it will snow each night and the sun will shine down on bright blue powder days all week long. But if you’ve skied a bit, you’ll know you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, and that can mean skiing in bad visibility.
Skiing in Bad Visibility: How to battle a whiteout
- Stick to runs that go through the trees
- Use the piste markers
- Ski in a group & stick together
- Always stay on piste & use your map
- Get the right goggles for flat light
- Change your elevation
If you have a day (or a few ) of bad visibility while you’re skiing – or as it is nicknamed a “white-out” – it can be a testing time for your skiing. Often it’s impossible to see more than a few feet ahead of yourself, and can be frustrating and a bit nerve-wracking as well. However, if you know a few secrets of how to deal with a whiteout, you will still have a great days skiing.
What is a whiteout?
A white-out is when visibility and contrast on the mountain is severely reduced due to snow, clouds, fog and wind.
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 (such as buildings) as they provide definition and improved spatial awareness. Also, the contrast between the trees and the white snow gives you a good depth perception.
The best areas to head to on a whiteout day:
- Courchevel: Head straight to La Tania for the Folyeres blue run. This weaves back down towards La Tania through the trees. For red run skiers try Murettes or Brigues and for advanced skiers try Jockeys the black. In fact, these runs are some of the best in Courchevel and are often forgotten!
- Méribel: Take the Rhodos bubble and try the Rhodos or Altiport run. Alternatively, if you are a confident blue run skier you can ski the Lapin piste to Meribel Village, just in time for a well-earned coffee.
- Espace Killy: Head to the La Daille area as there are plenty of trees to help you if you’re skiing in Tignes or Val d’Isère.
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. Also, 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.
Be sure to stick together and ski in a group
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. And try 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 and mean no one will get lost. Skiing near other people will also help you keep your orientation as to where is up and where is down.
Always stay on piste & use your map
Unless you really know the run and exactly where you are. It can be disorientating and while on-piste there is no risk of falling off a drop. Grab your piste map or download the resort app and try to stick to runs that don’t split off in too many directions. This way you’ll always end up at the lift together.
Get the right goggles for flat light
Most goggles come with two lens options: one for sunny days and one for flat light. Be sure you have the flat light lens in on a whiteout day, as these let in more light than sunny ones, which will help with definition and contrast in your surroundings. A recent brand we’ve been loving is Panda Optics, as you receive two different lenses when buying a pair of goggles. One for bright sunny days and one lense for low light days.
Change your elevation
Flat light is often caused by clouds and fog, but those clouds and fog don’t always cover the entire mountain. Often, if you get a bit higher up on the mountain, you can come up above the cloud and see some sun! Conversely, if up high is covered in cloud and fog, try skiing in the lower areas of the resort. These are likely to have more trees where clouds don’t sit as easily.
Make the most of it!
As our Courchevel 1850 Instructor, Andrea says, “The day after a whiteout day you will ski like a hero!”