Can You Ski While It’s Snowing? (Surprising Answer)
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Is it safe or dangerous? What about visibility? Can you really ski when it’s snowing heavily?
Yes – with fresh powdery snow to ski in, skiing in snow while it’s snowing can be a wonderful and perfectly safe. However, under the wrong conditions such as a blizzard or with wet heavy snow and strong wind, skiing can be miserable and sometimes dangerous.
While every skier has their own unique viewpoint, most can agree that skiing when there’s no wind, but lovely light and fluffy powder falling makes some of the absolute best conditions.
Nothing compares to the zen-like experience of slashing fresh pow only to have your tracks fill in by your next run. The silence, the beauty, the feel of bottomless pow underfoot is unreal.Paul Bee
The worst skiing conditions are when there is no visibility, there is heavy wind and you can’t see the trail color markings or other skiers near you, making skiing hazardous at best.
Gearing Up for Snowy Conditions
Skiing in snowstorm conditions requires having the right clothing and gear to stay warm, dry, and safe. Focus on waterproof and breathable outer layers like a ski shell jacket and bib pants, which will shed snow while allowing sweat to escape.
Underneath, use a merino wool or synthetic base layer to wick moisture and retain warmth. Insulating mid-layers like fleece or down jackets provide extra warmth. Finally, accessories like goggles, gloves, helmets, neck gaiters, and ski socks complete your protective snow ensemble. Pack extra gloves and neck gaiters in case your first pair gets wet.
For goggles, look for lenses with light tints like rose, amber, or yellow to boost contrast in low light. Ultimately, the right winter-ready layers and gear will keep you comfortable while skiing through the heaviest snowstorms.
Adjusting Your Skiing Technique
Fresh snowfall means adapting your stance and style to deal with powder and reduced visibility. Keep your ski tips closer together than usual to prevent them from diving unevenly into deep snow—a wide stance increases this risk.
Maintain balance by keeping your knees flexed, torso centered over your feet, and hands forward. Make rounded, fluid turns and keep your movements more compact. Pole planting becomes especially helpful for timing turns in low visibility.
Moderate your speed, carve conservatively, and avoid jagged movements to prevent falls in slick conditions. Patience and small adjustments to your technique will keep you in control. Above all, dial back your risk taking in challenging snow—this is the time for safe, stable skiing.
Staying Visible in Low Light
Whiteout conditions on the slopes drastically reduce visibility. To combat this, use high-contrast gear like brightly colored jackets and helmets so your ski party can spot each other. Neon green, orange, pink, and yellow work well.
Ski close together and establish visual contact often. Consider attaching small LED lights to your gear for visibility. If you become separated, have an emergency meeting point like the lift. For your eyes, amber or rose ski goggles enhance contrast in fog and snow.
A pair that combines an amber lens with a low light mirror coating offers a good compromise for storm conditions. Staying visible to others on the mountain is a vital safety consideration in poor visibility.
Best Ski Goggles for Snowing
Smith Optics Polarized Rose Copper – check price on Amazon
Anon Women’s Insight Goggles – check price on Amazon
Tips: Look for goggles with a lens tint for flat or low light conditions or an all-rounder color. Read my free ski goggles guide.
Knowing When to Call it Quits
Every skier eventually encounters nasty conditions that force them to quit for the day. Judge this call by factors like wind strength, visibility, exhaustion, extremity cold, and avalanche risk. Early signs of frostbite or hypothermia warrant heading in immediately to warm up.
If you cannot see your hand in front of your face, cannot make out trail markings, or feel unsafe, it’s time to stop. Avoid high-risk areas like ungroomed black runs and off-piste terrain when visibility goes south. Be ready to call it a day when the mountain weather wins—the slopes will still be there after the storm passes.
Upholding personal safety always takes priority over claiming first tracks. Know your limits, ski conservatively, and quit before conditions turn dangerous.
Choosing the Right Trails
During heavy snowfall, stick to groomed green and blue runs as much as possible, especially for beginners and less confident skiers. Gentler pitches and smooth corduroy make it easier to adapt to changing conditions.
Avoid black diamonds, moguls, trees, and bowls until visibility improves—this is when slower terrain proves safer and more enjoyable. For families, ski slow zones and short beginner lifts to build skills without longer exposures.
Watch for sub-par visibility as you descend and be ready to traverse to easier terrain. Keep an eye out for good ski patrol coverage in case you need to stop and get your bearings. When snow stacks up, dialing back the difficulty and exposure helps everyone stay under control.
Transport and Safety Considerations
Snowstorms require extra preparation and diligence. Check the forecast and road conditions before driving to the slopes, allowing ample extra travel time. Equip your vehicle with snow tires and bring chains, a shovel, flashlight, food, water, and a charged phone.
Tell someone your plans and expected return time. At the ski area, stay aware of parking and shuttle logistics, which can get delayed by weather. Keep gear organized and your boots accessible. Inside lodges, regularly re-hydrate and fuel up to avoid energy drains.
Family Skiing in Snow
Skiing with kids presents unique challenges in snowy conditions. Make sure young ones are dressed in warm, non-restrictive layers and have properly fitting gear—oversize equipment causes problems in powder. Use bright colors for everyone for visibility.
Have children ski between adults for guidance and supervision. Take frequent cocoa breaks to warm up. Avoid black runs and stick together on gentler pitches where falling isn’t as consequential. For little ones, make snow angels or build mini-snowmen to keep them engaged. Pace yourself according to the needs of the least experienced child.
If kids become cold, tired, or frustrated, call it a day. Family skiing relies on flexibility and dialing back risk in marginal weather.
Snow Safety Essentials
When skiing in storms, carrying certain items helps respond to emergencies. Pack a first aid kit with bandages, gauze, tape, pain relievers, heat packs, and latex gloves. Headlamps improve visibility when skiing after dusk.
A lighter and fire starter help make emergency warmth and signals. Insulated jackets, extra food, water, and a bivy sack or foil blanket prepare you if injured and unable to descend. Tree straps let you secure yourself if stuck in deep snow.
Always bring fully charged phones, external batteries, and the ability to make emergency calls from any location on the mountain.
A lightweight folding shovel and avalanche transceiver may also prove critical after hefty snowfall. Having the essential safety items in your pack could be vital during an unexpected emergency in harsh conditions.
Dealing with Whiteout Conditions
Completely losing all visibility on the slopes is a frightening experience. The only option is to stop movement until visibility improves. Come to a complete stop and anchor using your poles planted downhill. Crouch or sit to lower your center of gravity. Have group members physically connect via poles or by holding jackets.
Look for sheltered tree wells or rocks if available—do not head into open spaces. If caught on a lift, follow staff instructions and be ready for an evacuation. To avoid getting separated before whiteout, constantly communicate positions with your group.
Keep runs short with frequent regroups. Carry a radio or phone for contact with ski patrol. When whiteout hits, self-arrest and remain in place until you can see again or get rescued.
Iciness and Slush Management
Heavy snowfall can create variable conditions like icy groomed runs or slushy bumps. Adjust techniques to suit each situation. On sheer ice, lengthen your stance for stability and turn with care using your edges—don’t fight it or make sudden shifts. Increase ski base bevel for better grip or use universal wax.
In slushy snow after a thaw, use quick pole plants to maintain rhythm since poles can punch through. Weight your downhill ski through turns to prevent trailing edges from dragging. Concentrate on compact movements and protect your knees from chattering snow.
Hops and skips over divots in slush help retain speed smoothly. Icy early runs then slushy chunks under afternoon sun are possible—stay adaptable. Handle icy and slushy patches smartly and they don’t have to ruin your day.
How to ski In Fresh Powder (While It’s Snowing)
If it has been snowing heavily then the groomed slopes will be covered in a layer of powder making conditions similar to off-piste or backcountry skiing.
This is a great introduction to powder skiing and learning how to adapt to different snow conditions.
Top 7 tips for skiing in fresh powder
1. Choose all-mountain skis
100mm waist with a rocker will help the ski float easier on the powder, but still be great for groomed slopes.
2. Ski position
While your skiing powder, keep a gentle bend by the waist, hands up front and stable torso over your legs.
3. Skis close together
Keep your feet slightly closer together than you would on a groomed slopes. This is to stop one ski from sinking down too much in the snow more than another ski – which could cause an over or under rotation and result in a crash.
4. Ski short runs
If you’re new to skiing in powder, don’t go straight on a red or black run, start on short shallow gradients until you get used to the different conditions and how it affects your skiing.
5. Essential up/down bounce movement
In deeper powder (more than 15cm) you’ll need to bring in a pump up and down movement into each turn.
This popup movement will help you ski through deeper snow and turns at the top of the snowpack. Gently extend your legs at the start of each turn and twist your legs onto the snow.
6. Pole planting
Keep a strong core so your upper body turns at the same speed as your skis.
Keep your arms forward and pole plant to signal the start of each turn. Don’t push off your pole, just gently dab at each turn to create the rhythm of your turns.
If you’re not in the habit of pole planting, you’re missing out. Many new skiers think of pole planting as not having many benefits, but it really does improve your skiing – it’s not a skiers conspiracy.
When you start pole planting, you’ll begin to set a rhythm to your skiing and you’ll be adopting a better position coming into each turn.
In fresh powder and skiing in reduced visibility, pole planting will make your course down the mountain, safe, more fun, and less prone to falls.
7. Turn with the terrain
If you can, try to make your turn on the top of rollers or undulations on the slope. Turning on the higher parts of the bumps will make turning easier and more fun in powder.
It will give your skiing a nice flow!
How to keep warm skiing while it’s snowing?
You’ll want to be kitted out in warm, waterproof gear if you want to last more than a few minutes in the snow.
- Ski jacket that has a high waterproof and breathability rating
- Ski trousers that have a high waterproof and breathability rating.
- Thermal base layer to stay warm
- Fleece mid-layer for warmth.
- Neck gaiter that you can pull up over your mouth and nose.
- Ski goggles to protect your eyes from snow (ideally a tint color for low-light like permission, rose or brown)
- Ski helmet or warmth and safety (skiing in low visibility is more dangerous).
How to ski when it’s windy and snowing?
In windy conditions, skiing can become more challenging. If you’re in strong wind then you’ll need to adapt your skiing to respond to the wind.
Make sure you’re wearing a neck gaiter, goggles and helmet to block out the noise of the wind and the snow hitting you at speed.
Avoid open exposed areas and ski to more protected valleys where the wind won’t be as strong.
If the wind is too strong, it can make skiing dangerous. Find a protected spot to wait out the blizzard if you feel in danger.
It’s no fun skiing in a blizzard. If it’s too windy, it’s time to retreat and go home. If it’s too foggy, it can be very hard to ski because of low visibility and a whiteout.
Emillio T, Skier
Skiing while its raining
Sometimes when the temperatures aren’t cold enough, rain will fall instead of snow.
Consider a hiking waterproof shell layer to put over your ski jacket in heavy rain for greater protection.
If it’s heavy rain then the snow will still be skiable but may become slushier which is a bit more challenging to ski on, but not as bad as skiing on ice or hard packed snow.
You’ll want to reduce your speed and ski with caution. Rain can freeze and form a slick icy surface in some areas.
Pay particular caution not to ski on prepared race courses as these can become particularly slippery!
I recall before my teenage years that my father (an expert level skier) was on a NASTAR race course on a rainy afternoon, and was unable to stop after crossing the finish line. He ended up continuing out past the normal turnaround area and colliding with a building in the base area
Aaron Bell, Alpine Skier
Read my full guide on how to ski while it’s raining.
Skiing in a whiteout
Skiing in light snow can be a magical experience that makes for fresh powder underfoot.
Hit a blizzard in no visibility and skiing in even familiar areas can become hazardous. It’s easy to miss trail marking or accidentally stray off-piste.
If you’re in low visibility, ski slowly, with caution and near your ski buddy. If it becomes too dangerous or windy, find a shelter and wait out the storm.
Skiing on fresh powder is glorious. Skiing in wet or zero visibility is no fun unless your love the spirit of adventure.