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Toughest Ski Weather?

Since I am never out in the backcountry without a guide, I have mostly resort limited experiences, but I would like to hear from anyone who has been far from the safety of a lodge what kind of challenges you have faced.

Aside from very cold temperatures (which I can generally prepare for), the most interesting times for me involve fog.  I have had times where I am almost skiing blind, visibility in the 10s of feet, but add another level of difficulty when the fog is freezing to all your gear.  I have to spend the lift ride scraping myself off, so I am ready for the next run and then sometimes scrapping goggles a couple times to get back to the lift!


Frozen Shell


The next day, still foggy, but not freezing to me.

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10 Replies

HI @Diesseldorf 

I have been caught in an interesting weather once or twice.

1. December of 2018, my trip near the Carson Pass, south of Lake Tahoe. I was planning to do a 7-mile loop connecting the three lakes (Frog Lake, Winnemucca and Woods lakes). This is a well-known route although I had tentative plans to spur to the Round Top lake. I was touring solo, didn't have a dedicated GPS device or map, and relied on my phone GPS with OSMand app for navigation.  The app froze and had to be restarted 7 (seven) times. The temperature was in the 20s, I had my phone connected to a power bank, an by the end of the trip the bank was half-drained.


The image was taken from the ice surface of the Winnemucca lake, to which I treaded unknowingly, and you can see why.


There were several moments when I saw just white and the tips of my skis. The cloud was sitting essentially on top of the lake so as soo as I exited the bowl, I was in the clear. I have good memories about this trip, despite a few darn stupid things I did (in addition to skiing alone). Some time later I found out that the avalanche danger for that day was Considerable, and I exited the bowl along north-pointing gully, which was connected to the avalanche terrain (a classic north-eastern slope). While skiing down a gentle slope I fell and found myself in the powder below my skis. That was a powder day and I was on cross-country skis, 68 mm underfoot with Magnum BC bindings, which are non-release bindings, so I had a chance of ending up in NARSID situation. From today's perspective that was a cautionary tale. 

I documented another merry trip here.

Another solo trip, which was cut short after I was literally blown away by the ridgetop winds while transitioning.


Both very interesting trips!  Glad you made it out alright.  I also am not fond of powder under the XC skis, though that is always the dream for alpine.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Kinda tough skiing whn the temps ht 90F in the shade.  You need really good wax....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Dune skiing is possible, but yeah I wouldn't use anything but junkers for that.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

When it was -25f ambient at the bottom of the mountain and there was a physical demarcation 1/2 way up the lift where the trees were covered in ice and the wind hit and the ice cream headache occurred. We got off the lift and skied down to below the demarcation to the warm area of -25F.


Yep, those are the days need to pop by the fire and thaw off between runs!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
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Young dumb and the slopes were empty. Turned and burned for 2 and a half days. Lunch on day 3 when I got to the bottom, one of the guys I was with was skiing hunched over in pain, which made it easy to talk to him because I was sliding along in the fetal position also. Thats when a halt was called.

Ha ha ha, great story!

REI Member Since 1979

funny story...I was skiing in Zermat, Switzerland (as opposed to Zermat, Texas, lol) (name drop), when the weather started getting bad, fog coming in.  Well it was no good trying to ski so I took a lift that would get me near the top where a couple of restaurants were and headed in the general direction of the buildings until becoming completely socked in by the fog.

I knew I was getting close when I could hear folks talking, doors opening and closing, but I couldn't actually see the buildings.

As I was pushing myself on the fairly level surface, the voices started growing dimmer and I was getting a tad bit worried.

Suddenly, the ground started gently sloping down and I thought, ok I'm getting back to the piste, I could hear the chair lifts, I must have turned just a bit.

But now I was on a piste full of folks, going down, but I wasn't sure which trail I was on.

Then I heard the voices of other skiers, but not longer in German (or the swiss version), which was spoken around that area, but now Italian!

So with no choice but to ski down and figure out where we were, still in a white out, we skied down and fortunately got below the clouds and got to a lift line.

Well, we had accidentally skied between the restaurants and over the border into an adjacent Italian area.

The problem was, they were on a different pass and wouldn't let us go back up!

But after some arguing, pleading, and begging, and an exchange of Swiss Francs, the dude let us go back up...and we were saved!

unfortunately, for once, no pictures!

but wait, here's a pic from that area when we went there on another trip to start the high route, again, but thwarted again, due to avalanche danger.

053 13Apr86.jpg075 14Apr86.jpg090 14Apr86.jpg092 14Apr86.jpg119 15Apr86.jpg126 15Apr86.jpg128 15Apr 86.jpgtired, tired, tiredtired, tired, tired

REI Member Since 1979