The skies are blue and the high temp today should reach 30 degrees, so why was I so cold riding the Christie Peak Express this morning? If you’ve spent a lot of time in the Rockies, then you’re probably familiar with valley inversions. If this is your first time here, then you might wonder why the 800 fill down jacket that felt perfect at the base is causing you to sweat at the summit.

While you cant look out the window today and see that there is an inversion, sometimes the difference in temperature creates a spectacular sea of clouds effect.

The reason behind the temperature difference on days like today is actually pretty simple. Cold air sinks and warm air rises. The sun sets early this time of year so on cloudless nights when there is nothing to trap the warm air near the ground, it all escapes the valley. Over the course of the night, the cold air all falls to the lowest point, causing some impressively low temps. I live near the river and have had lows between -15 and -20 all week. When the sun rises in the morning, it starts to heat the air near the top of the mountain first and the warm layer traps the cold air down low. By late morning, the sun warming up the valley will start to mix the air and the temps in town will shoot up very quickly.

So what does this mean for skiing and riding at the resort? It means that the best riding early on when there is an inversion is up top. The mid mountain temps were around 24 degrees this morning when we opened and the conditions were soft and supple on the groomed runs. I spend most of my time on the runs down low and even though it was pretty chilly, the snow quality on Heavenly Daze and Vagabond was surprisingly grippy and fast. By this afternoon the lower mountain will be much warmer than the top, but keep an eye out for the inversions all week before the clouds move in on Friday.