While you were skiing (or shoveling) fresh snow, dermatologists were discussing your exposed epidermis in Miami Beach this week at their annual meeting. Everyone equates South Beach with a need for sunscreen, but when it's cold and snowy in the mountains, we are more concerned with frostbite and windburn than sunburn. The American Academy of Dermatologists wants to warn you that UV rays at elevation can be significantly stronger than at sea level. At 10,000-feet, the UV index is 40 percent higher, for example. Add to that the refraction factor, as snow reflects as much as 80 percent of UV rays back up toward your skin. So, basically - you're toast!
Being a ginger, I know too well that freckles (a cute term for sunspots) pop out on my face like Outer Limits moguls on a spring ski day. So I always wear a high SPF - even in freezing, flat-light December. But according to the 2012 report by the Sunscreen Environmental Working Group, “common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) may speed the development of cancer.” Other confusing chemicals in sunscreen include oxybenzone, diethanolamine, salicylates and parabens. What's a fair skin skier to do? Steer clear of fair weather? Stick your head in the snow bank?
The latest advice from the Derms is to cover up - so don't toss that balaclava or bandana in your ski bag just because it feels like spring. Seirus makes “Dynamax Bandanas,” with UPF 50 that block up to 99 percent of UV, completely chem-free and kind'a cool. It's what all the shredders in the park are wearing and they look gangster (which is a good thing apparently). Shaun White, fellow ginger, wears one. A broad spectrum sunscreen is also recommended, ideally containing zinc (preferably without the above mentioned offenders).
photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.