Skiing at night might sound a bit crazy to anyone who has never ventured out on the mountain after dark. But those of us who have done it know just how much fun and excitement can be found when the sun goes down and the lights come on.
I’ve been an avid skier since I was a child, and I get out in the snow as after as possible. I’ve skied in every type of situation and condition you can imagine and have done at least a hundred night skiing sessions over the years.
I’ll provide you with the ultimate guide to skiing at night in this post. My goal is to give you all the information and know-how you need to hit the slopes when the sun sets and have a fantastic time while doing it.
Let’s get started.
What is Night Skiing?
Night skiing seems pretty self-explanatory, and it generally simply involves skiing after dark. This can occur at a ski resort or in the backcountry. It’s a unique experience that many skiers like to do at some point during the season.
Skiing at night isn’t that different than skiing during the day. Any skier can ski at night, and you can enjoy great conditions while having a blast. You need to consider a few factors when skiing at night, which we will dive into in the sections below.
Where to Ski at Night
There are two primary ways to go night skiing. The most common is to ski at a resort equipped with lights that illuminate some of the runs. Not every resort has lights, so you need to find one that does if you want to catch some turns after dark.
People also go night skiing in the backcountry. You need a full moon and clear skies to do this most of the time to have enough natural light to ski while avoiding obstacles that might be in your way.
Night skiing can also happen at a resort without lights or the backcountry without moonlight if you have a bright enough headlamp and are brave enough to give it a try. However, I wouldn’t recommend this approach for first-timers.
When to Ski at Night
Night skiing occurs after the sun goes down. Ski resorts with lights will typically turn them on right around sunset and keep them on for 2-3 hours. Some resorts have extended hours from time to time, but you usually can’t ski all night under the lights at a resort.
The best time to go night skiing in the backcountry is two days before and after a full moon. You also want to make sure that it isn’t snowing during this time because if there is cloud cover, you won’t be able to see well enough to ski.
Every resort that offers night skiing can have different hours of operation, so you’ll want to check in with the location you are visiting to find out their exact hours. Some turn the lights on and you can ski right after dark, while others have a slight break in between day and night skiing.
Night Skiing vs Day Skiing: The Differences
There are a few key differences that you should know before you ski at night. While they both require essentially the same skills and technique, you can experience different conditions and limited terrain.
Snow and Weather Conditions
Night skiing can be much colder than day skiing. When the sun goes down, temperatures plummet, which means that you need to be well prepared with extra layers and plenty of cold-weather gear.
When the temperature drops, the snow can also get harder. This means that ice, hardpack, and other less-than-ideal snow conditions can exist at night. There can still be great powder days and sometimes groomed runs, but not as often as during the day.
It’s also much harder to see when the sun goes down, even if there are lights on the snow. Skiing in the dark can be challenging, even for experienced skiers, because of this. You simply can’t always see as far at night as you can during the day.
You also need different ski goggles to make up for this lack of visibility, which I’ll explain in more detail shortly. If there is a snowstorm, that can also limit visibility. But you don’t have to worry about sun glares and other sun-related things at night.
Ski resorts that offer night skiing do not have lighted runs all over the resort. That means you will have less terrain to ski and explore at night than you will during the day. Most resorts will only have a few major runs open at night.
You also don’t usually want to ski anything too technical after dark because it’s riskier, and there aren’t as many other skiers or ski patrollers around to help you in case of an accident. Safety is always a priority, and it’s more dangerous to ski at night.
One of my favorite things about night skiing is that there are usually fewer skiers on the mountain at night. I’ve had some great times night skiing where there are only a handful of other people on the slopes, and that’s hard to beat.
Still, night skiing can get crowded sometimes, and a lack of open terrain means that every skier who is out will be on the same runs. That can make things feel more crowded, even if fewer skiers are on the mountain.
What Do You Need to Ski at Night?
If you are night skiing at a resort with lights, the only additional equipment you need is different goggles or lenses than you use during the day. Without these, you won’t be able to see well (or at all) at night.
I like to use clear lenses at night, but some skiers like just a little bit of tint to help with any possible glare from the bright artificial lights. Dark-tinted goggles or sunglasses won’t work, and I don’t recommend skiing without some sort of eye protection.
You can either buy clear or lightly tinted goggles and just use them at night or get goggles with interchangeable lenses and switch out for night lenses after dark.
Also Read: Best Ski Goggle Lens for All Conditions
Other than that, you might want to wear an extra layer under your jacket or pants and warmer gloves or mittens. But that just depends on the weather and your preferences. You don’t need any special skis or boots for night skiing.
If you want to go night skiing in the backcountry, that’s another can of worms altogether. In addition to essential avalanche safety gear such as a probe, beacon, shovel, airbag, and proper ski clothing, you’ll also need a high-powered headlamp if you aren’t skiing under the light of the moon.
Again, I don’t recommend beginners or inexperienced backcountry skiers go skiing at night away from the resort. It’s just too dangerous.
How Much Does it Cost to Ski at Night?
If you only want to go night skiing, you will pay less for a lift ticket than for day skiing. This can be anywhere from $20-60+ cheaper for a single night ticket than a single day ticket. But keep in mind that night skiing hours are not as long most of the time.
If you have a ski pass for the resort that offers night skiing, you probably won’t need to pay any extra money and can go night skiing as a perk of being a pass holder.
I’ve been to several resorts where you can ski all day and at night until close by paying for a full-price lift ticket. If you really want to get a full day of skiing in, this can be an amazing experience. But skiing for 8-10 hours is a ton of work, so be prepared to be tired.
The cost of night skiing goggles or lenses can range from $20-$100+ depending on what model you choose. I like to get cheap clear goggles because you won’t use them nearly as much as your day skiing goggles.
Night Skiing Tips
You should keep in mind a few things when you are skiing at night to make the experience safer and more enjoyable.
Tip #1 – Keep Warm
When temperatures drop after the sun goes down, you really need to stay prepared to ski under the lights. You won’t last very long if you don’t keep your hands, feet, and core as warm as possible. Bring extra gear to fight against getting too cold.
Tip #2 – Ski Under Control
I like to slow things down a bit when night skiing, which is good advice for everyone. Skiing is always a dangerous activity, but things get even riskier at night. Ski under control, and always be aware of your surroundings.
Tip #3 – Don’t Ski Alone
This is also good advice for skiing during the day, but I always try to ski with other people at night. This is even more important in the backcountry, and you should never venture off-piste alone. Having other skiers in your group will pay off big time in an emergency.
Tip #4 – Use Clear or Lightly Tinted Goggles
If you want to make the most of your night skiing opportunity, you should invest in a set of clear goggles or lenses. While you could technically use day goggles or even no goggles, you won’t enjoy the experience as much if you do.
Tip #5 – Don’t Overdo It
Many ski injuries occur when you are tired or worn out. If you are going night skiing after a full day of skiing, you might be overdoing it. This can lead to injuries because of accidents but also due to fatigue. Know your limits and listen to your body.
Who Can Go Night Skiing?
I think that every skier should try night skiing. Beginners need to make sure that there are green or beginner runs open at the resort, but usually, that’s the case. As long as you feel confident and comfortable skiing at night, it can be a really fantastic experience.
Only advanced skiers should night ski in the backcountry. Beginners and even intermediate skiers can easily be overwhelmed skiing off-piste at any time, and things become even more complicated without sunlight.
Skiing at night is a fun and magical way to enjoy your time on the mountain. If you get a chance to look up at the stars while you’re zipping down the slopes, I promise it will be a moment you will never forget.
Even though there are a few night-specific considerations to keep in mind, night skiing is accessible for everyone. If you are interested in it, find a resort with lights and give it a shot! Just remember to play it safe and ski with others.