In The Spotlight
Everyone loves a day on the slopes when the sun is shining and temperatures are moderate. But finding just the right clothes, regardless of the weather, is key to making the most of any skiing and riding adventure.
When in a winter environment, layering is crucial says Stan Kosmider of The North Face. “The most underrated thing when people are getting ready to go outside is bypassing the part that’s closest to the skin. Yes, cotton fells great, but when you’re in an aerobic situation like skiing and snowboarding, that cotton actually absorbs all of your sweat, and when that sweat is against your body, you’re more susceptible to hypothermia and other cold weather problems,” Kosmider told SnoCountry.com.
So even if you have an expensive down jacket and shell, if you’re not prepared with the layer that’s closest to your body, those external layers won’t keep you as warm as they should.
The North Face’s base layer FlashDry, a polyester blended fabric, helps get the moisture off your body and gets it out into the atmosphere. “There’s hundred of thousands of pores across the little strands of fabric. As the sweat is coming out, it disperses it across the fibers,” Kosmider told us. Merino wool is another great base layer option because of its antimicrobial properties.
Next is a mid-layer, which captures heat in fleece layers. “You want to be conscious of how you are going to use the piece, Kosmider said, because you want it to be thin enough to layer, but still trap heat. The North Face has “gridded” pieces that have tiny little grooves allow sweat vapors to travel out through the layers of clothing, but the fleece still traps heat.
For insulating layers, two effective materials provide options, depending on the conditions you might encounter.
Down’s warmth to weight ratio is unmatched, and is a popular choice for everything from jackets to sleeping bags to comforters. The North Face uses 100 percent responsibly-sourced goose down.
Unfortunately, when down gets wet, the loft is compromised and actually reduces the amount of insulating properties it has. So unless there is a waterproof fabric over the down, wearing down in the rain is not the best insulator.
Kosmider says if there’s a chance of getting wet, use synthetic insulation such as Primaloft, a manmade polyester blended fabric that is hydrophobic. Even when its completely submerged in water, it actually still stores heat.
Finally, an outer shell can protect you from variable conditions like snow and rain. Goretex is a membrane construction that’s 100 percent water proof, but highly breathable. This revolutionary product that came out in the mid 70s, allows water to stay in molecular shape longer - water beads right off. “Goretex allows you to zip it up and go do what you want to do, and stop worrying about it,” Kosmider told us.
Finally, taking care of your investment in gear is key to it functioning properly and lasting a long time. “The biggest thing you can do is washing your garments,” Kosmider said. Washing on the delicate cycle with a non-dye liquid detergent will clean out the pores of your jackets, and putting it in the dryer will re-morph the water-repellent finish. Kosmider also suggests drying your down jacket with clean tennis balls or balls specifically made for the dryer, to let each of the down feathers dry and return its loft. Don’t ever hang-dry down, because mold and mildew can grow in the many feathers.
A good pace to start for a layering system is The North Face’s Tri-Climate series, which offers an easy combination of insulation, waterproff layers, and breathability.
Winter is off to a great start across the Heartland, and several Midwest resorts have plans to celebrate the season. Santa may also take advantage of the good conditions.
Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands will be celebrating the sights and sounds of the holidays Dec. 23-Jan. 3 with lots of planned activities, dinners, holiday rail jams, and New Year’s Eve dinners, live bands and celebrations capped with fireworks over the ski slopes. For a complete schedule you check out Boyne Mountain and the Boyne Highlands.
Crystal Mountain will be hosting holiday celebrations Dec. 15-Jan. 6. On the 24th ski with Santa and on the 25th all lift tickets and rentals are each $25. Planned activities will be taking place every day—fat bike tours, snowshoe tours, horse drawn surrey rides—with dinners, live entertainment and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Shanty Creek’s 12 days of holiday events include the Sardine Special on Friday, Dec. 21, when you pack the car with as many people as possible and you all ski for $69 per car, and breakfast and storytime with Santa on Dec. 22. Christmas Day ski and ride free with Santa on the Schuss Mountain slopes. Just bring a non-perishable food item or clothing to donate. New Year’s Eve celebrations will be taking place in all three villages.
Big Snow Resorts, Michigan’s UP, has New Year’s Eve parties slated, torchlight parades and fireworks over the slopes. Special events include family lift tickets $50 and an individual lift ticket $25 on Christmas Day and live music nightly throughout the holidays.
Wisconsin’s Devil’s Head Resort famed New Year’s bash package, which includes three night’s lodging, three dinners, three breakfast or lunches, four day lift tickets, festivities and a free bottle of champagne, starts at $506 per person. Kids can be added for $49 per night. It’s one of the best holiday parties in the Heartland.
Granite Peak is hosting a New Year’s Eve party in the Sundance Chalet with a live dance band from Chicago and a balloon drop at midnight. The party is free, no cover charge, and kids are welcome at parent’s discretion.
Minnesota’s Giants Ridge has a Ski with Santa special Dec. 24-25. Lift tickets are $25 both days and a chance to cruise the slopes with the jolly old elf. A special New Year’s Eve buffetminn is being served in the Burnt Onion and reservations are recommended.
The Steamboat Gondola has been the main transport onto the northern Colorado mountain since 1986, prompting new owner Alterra Mountain Co. to install a new gondola to get skiers and riders up and on the slopes more quickly.
In 2017, previous resort ownership made upgrades of inner works to the eight-passenger lift, but Denver-based Alterra ownership said it is ready to go full in after purchasing the 55-year-old resort at the end of the 2017 season.
The new lift, which is expected to be installed next summer, will:
- Increase uphill capacity by 38 percent.
- Cut ride time from 12 minutes to less than 10 minutes.
- Increase speed by 20 percent.
- Hang 10 percent more cabins, increasing uphill capacity to 3,600 people per hour.
Steamboat officials say that construction will begin April 15, 2019, when the resort is scheduled to close for the season. And, they plan to have it up and running for the full 2019-2020 season.
The new lift will follow the same footprint as the previous one, which replaced the original gondola on Steamboat Mountain that was built in 1970 – one of the earliest gondolas in Colorado.
For this summer, the gondola won’t be able to bring mountain bikers up to mid-mountain or sightseers to the Thunderhead Lodge. Instead, mountain managers will link together several chairlifts to get mountain bikers up the hill in summer 2019.
In the future, Alterra has plans for a new lift and in-bounds terrain in the popular glades of Pioneer Ridge. The expansion was recently approved by the U.S. Forest Service. And, owners want to expand beginner and learning areas around the mountain, following a trend throughout the ski and snowboard resort industry.
Multiple storm systems and a steady plume of moisture will stream into the Pacific Northwest, bringing big totals into the weekend.
Western U.S. & Canada
This week, all eyes are on the Northwest as a parade of storms brings in mountain snow. Heavy snow fell Monday-Wednesday with as much as 1-2 feet of snow across the peaks of Washington, British Columbia, northern Idaho and northern Oregon. Schweitzer in Idaho picked up 11" and Lookout Pass measured 23"of new snow through Wednesday.
A steady plume of moisture streaming in Thursday-Friday (Dec. 13-14) will, again, target the Cascades of Washington, as well as the Coast Range of British Columbia with an additional 1-2 feet of snow possible, mainly over 3000’. Mt Baker, Stevens Pass, and Summit at Snoqualmie will enjoy a great first few days of their season opening. Mt Washington, Whistler, Apex Mountain, and Grouse in British Columbia will also be great spots this weekend.
Eastern U.S. & Canada
After epic amounts of snowfall for many North Carolina ski areas last week (1-2 feet), many Southeast mountains continue to have an amazing start to December. Beech Mountain in North Carolina boasts an incredible 2 feet of fresh snow after last week's storm.
Midwest mountains are also off to a great start. Looking forward, a milder stretch of days for the East. This will compact any recent snow, and make for soft conditions. Many of the final openings of the season happen through this weekend across the East. Cold air returns by Monday and Tuesday of the upcoming week, so any leftover moisture in New York and New England could bring some light accumulation, a few inches, by then.
Be sure to check back every week to see what we're monitoring in the forecast for best ski and ride conditions across North America.