Night Skiing Safety Precautions

Mt Hood Skibowl WarmhutImagine gliding among the stars with a sharp, invigorating wind on your face, and you’ll come near the wonder of night skiing. Many people prefer night skiing because the slopes are generally less crowded after sundown. Furthermore, a night skiing lift ticket is usually less expensive than a day pass. However, the colder temperatures and icier conditions of night skiing require special safety precautions, such as bringing a high-quality LED headlamp, as outlined below.

 How to Prepare for Night Skiing: Your Safety Checklist

1. Make sure your car is in good shape.

Most drivers appreciate that a trip into the mountains requires special automotive precautions. A nighttime mountain trip can be even more hazardous, since temperatures are lower and roads are often icier at night. Before taking off for the mountain, check your car’s battery, fluid levels and tire traction situation; an LED headlamp can help you conduct this safety check. It’s also extremely handy to have an LED headlamp at your disposal for putting on chains or addressing unexpected car problems.

2. Bring a buddy.

If you go solo, there’s a smaller chance that someone will go looking for you if you happen to ski outside of boundaries. Bring a friend along on your night skiing adventure; you can look out for each other on the slopes. To help your pal find you on the mountain, wear a unique, bright outfit complete with an easy-to-spot LED headlamp.

3. Dress in warm layers.

Downhill skiing is always chilly, and it’s only colder at night. Indeed, temperatures tend to drop by at least ten degrees at night – and that’s assuming no wind chill factor. Dressing in layers will allow you to adjust your outfit according to current conditions. Backcountry gurus would also advise you to wear fabrics that wick moisture away from the body. Cotton is not a good choice because it tends to hold onto moisture, giving you the chills. It may help to think about your night skiing outfit in three general layers:

The wicking layer sits right next to your skin and helps draw sweat away from your body, where it will evaporate. Don’t assume you won’t perspire because it’s cold out. You will sweat with the effort of controlling your speed and direction. The wicking layer is crucial because if moisture stays next to your skin, you’re more likely to suffer hypothermia. Silk, wool and synthetic fibers are excellent wicking agents. Many nighttime skiers choose to wear a set of long underwear in one of these materials as their bottom layer.

The insulating layer keeps your body heat in and cold out. When air gets trapped in this layer, you stay warmer. Fleece and wool are great choices for the insulating layer; note that you still want a material that will wick away moisture. If you’re headed for an especially cold night of skiing, you may want to wear several insulating layers.

The protection layer blocks rain, snow, wind and sleet while also allowing perspiration to evaporate. “Shell” jackets and pants are excellent for this layer, as are one-piece suits, which do a great job of keeping out deep powder. Look for a waterproof, breathable fabric for your protection layer.

Finally, don’t forget to protect your hands, ears, head and neck while skiing at night.

4. Follow the skier responsibility code to the letter.

Ski resorts post and enforce the skier’s code, which states that skiers and snowboarders should always stay in control, first and foremost, so they can stop or avoid hazards. Here are a few more guidelines in the skier responsibility code:

  • Skiers ahead of you have the right-of-way, so you must avoid them.
  • Do not stop in a place that obstructs the trail, or where you cannot be seen from above.
  • Observe posted signs and warnings, and stay out of closed areas.
  • When merging onto a trail, look uphill and yield to those around you.

In addition to the safety precautions listed above, we recommend bringing along an LED headlamp. Experienced night skiers appreciate how wearing a LED headlamp makes them immediately visible on the slopes. If you wear an LED headlamp, other skiers will be able to avoid you more easily – indeed, wearing an LED headlamp could be considered the night skiing equivalent of defensive driving.

The HL7 Focusing LED headlamp from COAST is great for night skiing. Its 196-lumen brightness can be dimmed to as little as 3 lumens. This function will prevent you from blinding your fellow skiers, while also preserving the batteries in your LED headlamp.

[ Photo by: Mt. Hood Territory, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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