Despite recent advances in snowmaking, skiing continues to be a sport that relies on mother nature. And Mother Nature does not always cooperate with our planned outings or week-long vacations. Nevertheless, even with a small amount of snow coverage and the right gear, skiing can be an enjoyable sport in all weather conditions. But what about rain?
Can you ski in the rain? Yes, you can ski in the rain. However, you will need to take in some gear considerations as well as shift your expectations a bit when it comes to snow quality, but skiing in the rain can be a pleasurable experience.
If you would like to know more about how to not let a rainy ski day ruin your winter vacation or day at the slopes, read on!
Can You Ski in the Rain? – Tips and Best Practices
Ask anyone who regularly skis or snowboards and they are most likely to tell you that good gear makes a world of difference in how you perform on the slopes. Yet, when it comes to adverse weather conditions, such as rain, having gear that keeps the weather from affecting your ability to move down the mountain is essential.
First of all, choosing a waterproof, breathable outer layer and a warm, wicking underlayer is key to keeping you dry.
Second, a good set of anti-fog goggles and a microfiber cloth will keep your vision clear.
And finally, a recently tuned set of skis to make them slide over slushy, slow snow conditions.
Waterproof Outer Layers and Warm Underlayers
Warmer temperatures that cause rain or sleet on the slopes does not mean that it is by any means “warm”, and keeping dry both from the outside and within guarantees that you can stay out all day without getting chilled.
The first line of defense against the rain is a waterproof outer layer that remains breathable. For years, Gore-Tex lined ski jackets and ski pants were the number one choice for skiers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts for a waterproof yet breathable outer layer option. The Arc’teryx Zeta AR Jacket and pants are an excellent choice and provide great waterproof protection without sacrificing breathability.
However, many new waterproof and breathable fabrics and treatments are available. Helly Hansen’s Trysil Jacket and their Legendary Pants are a great alternative to Gore-Tex.
Rounding out your outer layer needs is a good set of waterproof or water-resistant gloves. The Dakine Sequoia Mitt features a removable liner and waterproof shell.
What warmer temperatures do mean is that you will likely sweat underneath your outer layers. Thus, having a light, breathable, and wicking base layer will keep you from heating up too much, as well as getting cold from sweat staying next to your skin. Smartwool base layers provide good wicking and warmth with natural merino wool. Just make sure you cover your legs and feet as well!
Obviously, being able to see clearly on the mountain is incredibly important. When skiing in the rain, not only do rain drops continually hit your goggles, but the variable temperatures and humidity create an environment where goggles are prone to fogging up. Therefore, a highly breathable goggle will keep your vision from being compromised.
However, it is impossible not to have water drops collect on your goggles in the rain. Keep a small, microfiber cloth in your pocket to wipe off rain drops while riding the lift or taking a break on the slopes.
Tune Your Skis for the Snow Conditions
An often-overlooked component to skiing in slushy, warmer, or rainy conditions is how your skis are tuned and waxed. Typically, skis are tuned for cold weather snow conditions.
However, as the snow melts with rain or warmer temperatures, a cold-weather wax base on your ski will feel slow and sluggish. If you have checked the weather beforehand, head down to your local ski shop and have them retune your skis for warmer snow conditions. If you are already at the hill, many ski shops specialized in express tunes. Or, if you are renting, ask the ski shop if they have tuned their skis to the conditions.
Although it may not seem like a major issue, having skis that actually slide effortless makes skiing in the rain much more enjoyable. You will find that you can ski longer and with less frustration.
Advantages of Skiing in the Rain
Very few skiers would consider skiing in the rain ideal. Wet chairlift seats, rain drops splashing against your face, and snow that can be slower, heavier, and more difficult to turn in, all seem like reasons to put your skis in the rack and hit the lodge for a hot chocolate. But skiing in the rain can be fun and comes with some real benefits! You only need to shift some of your expectations and think of skiing in a new light:
- For one, slower, softer snow can help you work on your turns or master some moves that you might otherwise be hesitant to try on faster, harder snow.
- Two, since many people have a mental block on rain and skiing, lift lines and the crowding on the resort are likely to be minimal if non-existent! For example, when living in South Korea, my friends and I went skiing for Lunar New Year (one of the busiest times to ski in Asia). Despite earlier snow storms, warmer temperatures from the coast brought rain. We ended up walking straight onto every lift that weekend, which was a first for us in a usually very crowded resort!
- Three, warmer temperatures do mean that you are less likely to freeze or get extremely cold, which is something that can just as easily ruin a day on the slopes as rain.
So, all and all, can you ski in the rain? Absolutely! Just remember to pack the above-mentioned gear, tune your skis for the conditions, and slightly shift your mindset and expectations about skiing. Take these steps, and you should have a memorable and positive trip on the slopes!