Troubleshooting your day on the slopes, and other ski tips

December 9, 2013 Updated: December 9, 2013 at 7:25 am
photo - Lisa McGinn of Boulder eats powder while skiing Friday, Feb. 15, 2013,  with the Monarch Snowcat Tours. The ski area started running it's snowcat earlier this month.    (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Lisa McGinn of Boulder eats powder while skiing Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, with the Monarch Snowcat Tours. The ski area started running it's snowcat earlier this month. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

There's nothing in the world like a good day of skiing or snowboarding.

When you're nailing your turns, slaying the powder and soaking in the awe-inspiring views of the Rocky Mountains, you'll understand why 12 million people a year ski in Colorado.

But let's face it. Not every day of skiing is perfect. Toes get cold. Goggles fog up. Lift lines slow you down. Some days, snow sports can seem like an exercise for your patience as much as an exercise for your legs.

So as the ski season ramps up, we offer some advice on getting the most from your day on the slopes and cures for some of the common annoyances that can ruin your day.

Before you go

In skiing, the early bird gets the worm. And if it snowed the previous night, it gets first shot at the powder. So make sure you get to the lifts early.

If you haven't used your skis or board in a while, give them a fresh wax. Not only will you go faster, but you won't find yourself grinding to a halt whenever terrain levels out.

Gas up and pack the car the night before your trip, with everything except your boots. More on that later. You'll get a quicker start in the morning and won't feel as rushed. There's also a lesser chance that sleep cobwebs will make you forget your snow pants.

If you're renting gear, do so in town the day before so you don't waste more time in line at the resort rental shop, sweat stinging your eyes because you're wearing five layers and the heat is cranking.

Check the weather forecast and road conditions before picking your route to make sure the pass you need to drive isn't closed because of snow or accidents. The Colorado Department of Transportation website is a great resource.

If you have the misfortune of having to drive Interstate 70 on a weekend, Denver ski traffic can be infuriating, so leave for the slopes extra early and plan to drive home extra late.

Better yet, don't drive I-70 on a ski weekend.

Bring food and water

Skiers can burn up to 3,000 calories in one day, so you'll need to keep your body fueled - and not by eating snow. Carry a small plastic bottle in your coat or a slim hydration backpack. Wear the backpack under your coat so your body heat stops the line from freezing. And fill up every chance you get.

On-mountain restaurants at ski areas are notoriously expensive. Like professional sports stadiums, they have a captive audience and can charge whatever they like. Fight the power by bringing your own food, such as a sandwich or wrap in your pocket, or a sack lunch in a locker at the base area.

Avoid lift lines

Nothing can slow the momentum of a good ski day like waiting 10 minutes to ride the chair lift. Those right at the base tend to be most crowded, so get up the mountain early and focus your attention on terrain served by midmountain lifts, which usually aren't slowed by ticket checkers.

Lines tend to shorten from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on crowded days, as the masses head for the warmth of the lodge for lunch, so bring a snack and ski through lunch.

Keep your toes warm

Cold toes have been the bane of skiers' existence for generations. But there's no reason to suffer. Start your day with warm feet, keeping your boots inside the night before skiing. Especially for skiers, cold boots can take hours to warm up. Wear thin wool socks.

If you know it's a really cold day, buy one-use foot warmers, which are air-activated and will stick to your sock. Most ski and outdoors gear shops sell them individually for a few bucks or in boxes.

Frequent skiers should consider shelling out more for electric boot heaters. Hotronics is the most popular brand. For $200, it comes with battery packs that attach to the side and a warming insole.

Find a lost ski

You're not a serious powder hound if you haven't wiped out in deep snow and fallen out of one or both skis. Finding them can be an exhausting hassle.

Walk, crawl or swim through snow to where you fell. With your remaining ski or pole, begin probing in lines perpendicular to the way the ski should be pointing. You'll find it eventually. Or come back when the snow is gone in June to look.

Keep goggles from fogging

Fogged-up goggles are not only annoying but dangerous. Vision is very important on a snowy hill full of obstacles and other skiers.

Goggles fog up because heat from your body meets the cold mountain air. The more you sweat, the worse it becomes.

The best defense is a good pair of goggles. Spend the extra money for goggles with double lenses, which feature an insulating layer between the lenses to prevent fogging.

If your goggles fog, don't wipe the inside. There's an anti-fog coating you can wipe off. Carry a soft cloth, such as the bag the goggles came in, to wipe the exterior.

If fogging persists, make sure your vents aren't clogged with snow, as this can restrict air flow. Don't put your goggles directly on your forehead, as the sweat will exacerbate the fogging.

When fogging won't stop, take a 10-minute break to let your goggles dry or run them under a restroom blow dryer.


YMCA Turkey Trot 5K - 9 a.m., Briargate YMCA, 4025 Family Place. Go online for cost and registration:

Outdoor Skating Rink - 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-2:30 p.m., Acacia Park, 115 E. Platte Ave., $5, free for ages 4 and younger, $3 skate rental;


A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," 7 p.m., ABC: The lovable blockhead hosts a holiday feast with an assist from chef Snoopy.

McClatchy Newspapers


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Comedian Jon Stewart is 51. Actress Garcelle Beauvais is 47. Singer Dawn Robinson (En Vogue) is 45. Rapper Chamillionaire is 34. Singer Trey Songz is 29.

The Associated Press

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