Last season I took a quick four-day trip to Isaberg in the southern part of Sweden. It is a small molehill of a mountain – only 309 meters in height – where the longest descent is 950 meters long.
Long story short, when I got there it was raining. Luckily, I had done my research before I left home. So I thought, I’d share my tips on what to be prepared for if you should ski in the rain.
Why would I ever go skiing when it’s raining?
Let’s face it. Everyone would rather be skiing when it’s sunny or snowing lightly. Skiing under grey skies is no
But skiing in the rain does actually have its’ perks. Yes, you read that right. There’re actually upsides to skiing when it’s raining.
It is exactly because everyone would rather ski when it’s dry, sunny or snowing, that skiing in the rain can actually be a good thing.
When the rain starts, the other skiers and riders usually leave, which means you’ll have the slopes all to yourself.
But that’s not all. Empty slopes mean no lift lines. Often you can ski right onto the next chair. If you’re lucky to be at a resort, which has chairlifts with heated seats and a protective covers, riding a chair while listening to the rain, can be quite an enjoyable experience.
People actually hate skiing the rains so much, that even though they’ve paid for a group skiing lessons in advance, they might not show. So your group skiing lesson might turn into a cheap private lesson instead.
However, skiing in the rain is not without its’ hassles and hazards. And you need to think about how you ski, and what you wear. Let’s try to identify those annoyances and dangers and how you can overcome them.
Is skiing in the rain dangerous?
Skiing in the rain – as well as skiing after it has rained – can potentially be dangerous.
I’ve identified three potential risks, you should at least be aware of before you head out to ski in the rain.
1. Skiing on hard glazed ice
If you’re skiing on hard-packed or icy surfaces in wet weather, skiing can be dangerous. Skiing on icy surfaces is no joke, to begin with.
Now imagine an icy surface with a thin layer of water on top. This can make it very hard to control the skis, and make turning and stopping almost impossible.
It’s a treacherous scenario, which quickly can become very dangerous, especially if you’re skiing at the edge of your ability level on a steep racecourse.
This is extra dangerous if the temperature is around the freezing point, and the precipitation falls as rain and freezes on the ground. Skiing will be like driving down a glazed mountain road in a car in freezing rain.
Skiing in freezing rain will also put a layer of frost on your goggles, you have to scrape of all the time (if it is possible to remove at all). In case of freezing rain, it’s probably best to stay inside with a hot cup of cocoa.
If it rains during the night and then freezes, the pistes can become icy and uneven, and it is hard for the PistenBully slope machines to groom the slopes at night.
2. Skiing in heavy slushy snow
When it is warm outside, rain will make the snow extra heavy and difficult to ski in. This can make turning difficult and the skiing tiring.
At the end of the day, when fatigue has set in, and your quads are killing you already, skiing in wet slushy heavy snow can potentially lead to mistakes, which in turn can lead to accidents. Especially if your ski profile is not fit for such conditions.
But if temperature is just around the freezing point, the rain will actually soften the snow, which can make turning easier and fun.
3. Wrong clothing can lead to hypothermia
If you’ve got the wrong clothing, skiing in the rain will not only be a miserable experience, it can potentially lead to hypothermia.
If you’re soaked through from baselayer to shell, and you get cold at the same time, this could spell trouble. Those long rides in the chairlift, when you’re cold and wet, is no joke.
So make sure you wear the right clothing for the conditions. You might even consider wearing rain gear if it is really pouring.
If you’re not sure how to find the best ski clothing, that can withstand rain as well, I recommend you read this article on how to find the right ski jacket.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s have a look at what you can do, to make your next ski trip in the rain more fun.
Tips and tricks for skiing in wet conditions
So you’ve driven all the way, paid for the lift ticket, and now it’s raining. Fear not here’s 7 tips to get you through the day.
1. Use waterproof ski clothes
Not all ski clothes are created equal when it comes to withstanding showers. Manufacturers of cheap ski pants and ski jackets often skip on waterproofing using a good waterproof and breathable membrane like GoreTex. Instead, they treat the face fabric with Durable Water Repellency (DWR) which is not waterproof – only water-repellent.
If you expect to be skiing in the rain, you should at least look clothing with a waterproof rating of 10,000 mm. And if you expect to be skiing in heavy rain for a prolonged period of time, you should look for a waterproof rating between 20,000-30,000 mm.
You can read more on waterproof ratings in this article.
Another important thing to look for is ski clothing with sealed seams.
High-quality ski clothes have seams that are sealed with waterproof tape. This is essential to a good experience in the rain because the seams are the most vulnerable parts of a ski jacket when it comes to making it waterproof.
Ski clothing is only as good as the weakest link, and you don’t want those showers to leek through the seams and soaking the mid- and base-layers underneath.
Mid-range ski clothing often only
Another thing to look for is waterproof zippers, with a pull to quickly open your jacket, when you’re wearing gloves.
2. Consider wearing rain gear instead of a shell
If you haven’t got a waterproof ski jacket, you should consider wearing rain gear. If you got a good set of Waterproofs, you can either wear it instead of your shell or as extra protection over the shell.
If you got an old set of Waterproofs, you can cut off the sleeves (above the biceps) and legs (mid-thigh length) to provide extra mobility. This will keep your pelvis area, buttocks and torso warm and dry, while still providing some mobility.
Even a low-tech solution like a cheap waterproof poncho can do the trick. Keep in mind, that these are far from breathable though. And a poncho will not keep your pants dry. But in light rain, a poncho can get you through the day.
3. Wear a helmet and mind the gap
Ski helmets are awesome. Not only do they protect your noggin they also don’t get soaked
You should make sure though, that your goggles and helmet match each-other. The goggles shouldn’t be too big, so they move helmet into a position, where it doesn’t protect you properly. They also shouldn’t be too small, so there’s a gap between the goggles and the helmet.
If there’s a gap between your goggles and your helmet, in wet conditions water will run down your forehead and soak the foam, which will cause the goggles to fog.
When it’s cold, the gap will expose your forehead to the freezing conditions, which is no fun at all, when you’re going down the slopes with the wind hitting your face.
Keep the foam of goggles dry at all times – either over your eyes or tugged away in your pocket. Never wear them on the top of your helmet, if it’s raining.
Read my list of best goggles for skiing, where you’ll find some excellent options, which offers some great value for the money.
4. Dry your ski clothes between ski days
When it rains it pours. Sometimes it lasts for days. The last thing you’ll want is to wake up to damp clothing the next morning and head out into the cold.
Find a way to dry your ski clothes overnight. Some ski huts come with a drying cabinet. Some chalets even have ski rooms, where you can dry all your gear overnight. Use the facilities, if they’re there.
If you haven’t got access to such luxury, hang your clothes to dry near a radiator, wall heater, or a fireplace away from any embers.
If you are looking for ski clothing, you should check out Recommended ski clothes – from baselayer to shell which has some nice suggestions from everything from baselayers, socks, jackets, and pants.
5. Dry your ski boots overnight
Even though ski boots are basically plastic, they do get wet. Rain or no rain, you should always dry your ski boots, because
Pull out the ski boot liner and leave it to dry at room temperature. Leave the shells out to dry as well at either room temperature, in a heating cabinet or on a hot air rack designed for ski boots.
You should consider investing in either a set of portable boot dryers or a hot boot bag to make sure, that your boots will always be warm and dry the next morning
The hot boot bag is a great solution if you have to travel with wet boots (like a four-hour drive after a day of skiing) – or if the kids choose to jump around in a puddle in their boots.
You can read more on how to care for your ski boots in this article.
If you’re looking for a good ski boot dryer, I suggest you take a look at this article: Best ski boot dryers
6. Bring extra sets of mittens and socks
Wet mittens will lead to cold fingers. And mittens are probably the weakest link of your ski outfit. If you’re going to be skiing in wet weather, you should at least bring two sets of mittens.
I say “at least” because you might easily go through two pairs in a single day. Even mittens with waterproof membranes won’t last a whole day.
Bring a couple of extra mittens with you in a pocket or a waterproof backpack. – And some extra pairs on the drying rack in your hotel room, while you’r out.
Also, bring extra socks. Water can get in your boots from the top or leak in through the cracks and seams where the boot shell overlaps the tongue.
Put on new pair of gloves and socks at lunchtime. I guarantee the feeling will put a smile on your face.
7. Wash your ski clothes often
For some odd reason, some people are afraid of washing their ski clothing. For others, it’s a ski bum syndrome: “I never wash my ski clothes. I’m just too cool”.
Unfortunately, there’re some widespread ideas going around, that washing your ski clothing will ruin the membrane when, in fact, the opposite is true.
As you fall, sit in chairlifts and use your jacket for après ski dirt and bacteria will clog up the microscopic pores in the fabric and membrane, which in turn makes the jacket less breathable. In turn, you’ll get wet from the inside.
Wash your ski jacket and pants twice a month. Don’t use bleach or fabric softeners, as these chemicals are hard on the fabric and membrane. Also don’t put your ski clothing in the dryer, as this can also hurt the membrane.
I hope you find this article helpful, and it didn’t discourage you from skiing in the rain. Skiing through soft moguls and making easy turns is actually really fun. Add to that having the slopes to yourself and no lift lines, which is what we all dream about.
Of course, skiing in the rain doesn’t beat waking up to a Bluebird day with fresh powder. But it doesn’t have to be the miserable experience, that most people think it is.
If you got any tips on how to make the best of skiing in the rain, please share in the comments.