Top tips for skiing in bad light

The clouds are rolling in, the snow is falling and yet the mountains are still more empty than ever. The infamous “White Out” has left skiers sat in their chalets rather than enjoying the slopes.

11 January 2016


The clouds are rolling in, the snow is falling and yet the mountains are still more empty than ever. The infamous “White Out” has left skiers sat in their chalets rather than enjoying the slopes. We caught up with TDC ski and snowboard instructor Steve Angus in Val d’Isère to find out his tips on how best to enjoy skiing in poor visibility.

What is a white out / flat light?

Although we all enjoy bluebird days, sunshine and fresh snow, with any sport played in the great outdoors, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Invariably you get days when the visibility is reduced (flat light) and it could just be heavy cloud cover or failing light at the end of the day.

Definition of the lie of the land, bumps and lumps and the state of the snow ahead of you can be tricky to read. When the conditions are particularly bad and often in heavy blizzard conditions the visibility can be down to just a few metres so we have a ‘white out’. In fact it can trick the brain into not knowing where we are and can feel very strange. Although not as enjoyable to slide in as ‘brochure’ days there are not only some advantages but ways in which it can be made to be a whole lot easier.

Surely there must be an invention to help me see better in such conditions isn’t there?

Getting the correct ‘low light’ lenses in your goggles will certainly help. Some goggles even have photocromatic lenses that do the adjusting for you. If it is snowing, be careful to keep any moisture out of the inside of the goggles as if anything gets inside you’ll soon start getting fogged up.

Right but it is only a marginal improvement – what else can I do?

You need to think about how and where you can get ‘shadows’ and the light bouncing around so your eyes can spot things better ahead of you. Simply heading for tree lined runs or skiing between the trees if off piste can help. Rocks (at the side of the runs), buildings and any other third party persons will all help.

But places like that are few and far between in Val d’Isère and Tignes?

Far from it actually. You have La Fornet…. quick laps on the Fornet Cable car and you have blue and black run options as well as off piste routes too. Down in La Daille is the most popular and obvious place as you have a whole host of run options. Further afield taking a trip to Tignes Les Brevieres is another top option…. make a day of it and have lunch down there in the oldest part of Tignes.

Sheltering in the trees in La Daille

Sheltering in the trees in La Daille

But what about technical, tactical, phycological and physical factors to help me?

Let’s be realistic about this… the visibility is not as good in flat light and white out conditions….. you can’t see all the terrain is going to throw at you and like a car going off road – stay relaxed and ready in your suspension (your legs)…. ready to absorb what the mountain throws at you. Stand in a ‘ready’ position will help too.

The brain can play games with us so be positive in how you turn and slide otherwise it’s easy to have your confidence knocked. You can play a game with your mind to give it more information by dragging your poles gently to each side of your body with arms stretched to the side slightly. With the poles touching the ground the brain can help get a sense of what is up, down, left and right so we stay balanced. Tactically it is a good idea to slow it down, round your turns off so you don’t go too fast will make it all possible. Ski runs one level of difficulty down from what you would normally consider keeps it safer too.

You said there were some advantages of being out in these conditions – tell me more.

Most people will turn their backs when the weather is not playing ball…. so you often get the mountain to yourself. The runs can be empty and the atmospheric lighting you do get can be enchanting. You have to work harder to slide as well as you would do when the sun is shining but that in itself improves your performance. Think how easy it will seem when the sun does come out. You’ll be seen as a god or goddess when the sun does come out and you are showing extra flair with all the new found skills you have learnt when the weather was poor!

Steve Angus showing how it is done on a clearer day

Steve Angus showing how it is done on a clearer day

Anything else?

Smile, relax and enjoy…. You’re sliding down a mountain in one of the most beautiful places on the planet…. a bad day on the hill is better than a good day in the office!

To book a trip to Val d’Isère, call us or fill out an online enquiry form.  Booking a lesson with TDC is simple, call +33 6 15 55 31 56 or visit their website.

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