What to Do When Skiing or Snowboarding in a Whiteout

We all love storms that dump powder on the slopes and leave behind heavenly blue bird days. Of course, if there’s a storm, then there’s a chance that there’s going to be a whiteout on the mountain.

Whiteouts can happen because of heavy snow, clouds, high wind, fog, or a combination of all the above, so we’ve written about what to do if you’re skiing or snowboarding in a whiteout below. Read all about it before your next ski trip, and then use Mammoth Bound to find the best deals on lodging and rentals in Mammoth Lakes!

Have a Place to Meet if Separated

You should always stay within sight of the people you’re skiing or snowboarding with during a whiteout, even if it means skiing slow or for only a few turns before stopping to regroup. Even then you can still be separated and unable to find your group in the middle of a whiteout.

That’s why it’s important to decide on somewhere to meet if you or anyone you’re riding with is separated. Choose a central place that is easy to find and accessible from most of the mountain and stay there until your entire party is accounted for.

Slow Down While Skiing or Snowboarding

It’s easy to lose track of where you are on the mountain during a whiteout, but you can also run into hazards like ice, bumps, and other skiers on the slope if you’re going too fast.

Even if the snow feels great, whiteout conditions are not the time to rip down the slope. Take your time and ride cautiously. Most people’s first instinct is to slow down or stop in a whiteout, and if you’re going too fast with low visibility then you could seriously injure yourself and someone else.

Stick to Groomed Runs with Landmarks

One of the easiest ways to find and keep your bearings during a whiteout is by sticking to a groomed run with trees on either side.

In extreme whiteout conditions it can be difficult to even tell where the snow ends and the sky starts, but with trees providing a natural contrast to the snow and sky you’ll not only be able to see the ground clearly but also where to ski towards.

Watch for Flat Light

Another big issue during whiteout is flat light, which is when a combination of indirect lighting and snow’s natural color causes it to look extremely flat. That may not seem like a big issue at first, but if you can’t see the snow’s surface then you can’t spot ice or hardpack snow that’s difficult to hold an edge on.

Fortunately, many goggles come with lenses designed to see through flat light, so make sure you have them on cloudy days or when whiteout conditions are possible. 

Head Up or Down the Mountain

Lastly, oftentimes whiteout conditions are confined to a specific part of the mountain. If you head further down or up the mountain, then there’s a chance you can ski or ride without whiteout conditions.

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