If you do use your all-mountain skis and all-mountain snowboards regularly, understanding the different types of snow is important. On top of helping you interpret the latest ski and snowboard reports; the information can help you become better at snow sports.
In this article, we will discuss the snow types to expect every time you put on your ski jacket. This should help you understand the joys and challenges presented by the varying snow types.
The Different Types of Snow
1. Powder Snow
When it comes to snowboarding and skiing, powder snow offers the best experience. The freshly fallen snow sits on the mountain waiting for skiers and snowboarders to come along and break it in. The snow is extremely soft.
Powder snow is usually packed in thick layers – these form a pillow for any crashes that you may decide to take. The snow will allow you to try new tricks. On top of holding your edge, powder snow is the most forgiving.
Due to grooming, you will have higher chances of finding powder snow on the piste. However, if you ride the sides of the pistes after a heavy snow dump, there is a high possibility of coming across fluffy glistening powder galore.
If you decide to explore powder snow after donning your snowboard jacket, you have to make speed your best friend. If you move too slowly, you won’t be going anywhere – the snow will swallow up your cross-country skis. To float on the powder, you have to maintain a high speed at all times.
Although powder snow is sublime, wonderful, and thick, you have to keep in mind that it may cover tree stumps, rocks, and crevasses. For this reason, you will need to be extra careful to stay safe when skiing and snowboarding powder snow.
When skiing powder snow, you must ensure that your weight stays in the back of the skis. This will help you reduce the chances of the nose or tip digging into the snow. While falling in powder snow may not hurt, getting up after the skiing fall can be tough – you will have to dig yourself out of the often heavy powder.
This is the second-best option from the powder snow described above. If after donning your cross-country skiing equipment you explore the regular slopes, you will always come across crud. For this reason, we will take a deeper look at this snow type.
Crud generally results from a large number of people riding through the powder snow. The powder ends up getting piled in certain areas and packed in others – the result is usually an uneven surface featuring huge lumps of powder and slippery patches.
Compared to powder snow, exploring crud after donning your ski helmet may be less fun. This is generally due to the uneven and bumpy surface. You will often find yourself navigating through alternating snow consistencies.
This, however, does not mean that it is impossible to have fun on crud. To keep your session fun, you will have to put in a lot of leg work – that is, one minute you may need to be light while on the other minute you may need to be firm. If you like a challenging workout, skiing or snowboarding crud snow may be ideal for you.
Tactically, exploring crud is more like a trail running down a steep path featuring a lot of roots and rocks. Crud snow is known to throw up surprises. If you look straight at the ground, you will not have the ability to see what is coming up next.
For safety purposes, you will need to keep your eyes straight ahead so that you can know how to turn your skis. You will need to find a flexible tempo down the path that features the least resistance. Below, we have some tips you can use when exploring crud snow:
You should focus on starting each turn from an athletic and balanced stance. Ensure that your core is not further back or forward than your ski bindings. Focus ahead on your next moves and the terrain.
Crud is generally unpredictable. You will need to relax the ankles to absorb the micro terrain. This will also help you roll over the changing terrain. Be sure to keep the outside leg elongated. This will help you absorb the bigger bumps.
To stay controlled, you will need to pressure late and heavy. This should help you damper the speed with great precision. This is also an ideal way to blow up snow to impress your friends and anyone watching.
Body Down the Hill
When skiing steeps, ensure your shoulders are facing downhill at all times. The skis should stay in the fall line longer than they would when you are in smoother conditions. To control the speed, focus on pressuring the skis, not swinging them across the hill.
You Need to Be Aggressive
Crud can be extremely intimidating; you will need to be aggressively proactive in moving with the varying terrain. If necessary, consider imagining a string attached to the belly button and pulling you down the fall line.
Variable terrain can be compared to notes in music. Some turns will be quick while others have to be drawn out. You will need to find a tempo that allows you to flow through your chosen path (as mentioned earlier on, this should be the path of least resistance).
When the wind and sun melt the top snow layer and the cold makes it freeze into a solid again, you end up with crud. The crust usually sits on top of the powder snow, often giving an interesting ride.
If you get a soft crust after donning your ski gear, you should be able to break through it to access the powder underneath. If the crust is too tough, you may have to adjust your skiing or snowboarding techniques to ski the ice.
It is worth noting that there is always the possibility of the crust being patchy – this makes it quite unpredictable. You could be riding through some soft crust and then all of a sudden smash into a frozen hard crust.
To have fun when riding the crusted snow, you have to be more aggressive. You may need to pull up or jump turn your knees in the ski carving. This can help you avoid falls and other issues.
This is basically snow that has already started to melt. The slush snow is generally wet. The snow comes with warmer mountain temperatures – it is pretty common during the spring.
Slush snow may also occur as a part of an icy morning and slushy afternoon combo, often with the conditions varying as the temperatures rise throughout the day and melt the snow. Throughout the night, the temperatures usually cool again and hence freezing the snow.
While it is neither pretty nor pleasant, skiing on slushy snow brings with it afternoons relaxing in the sunshine. This can make for the downfalls.
Snowboarding and skiing on slush can be quite challenging. Slushy snow generally lacks crystal structure – this means that it can be both slow and heavy. As you try to turn through the snow, the snow’s wetness could end up pulling your beginner snowboard or ski.
If you are a snowboarding beginner looking for a safe way to try new snowboarding techniques, spending your afternoons on the slushy snow may be a good idea. After lunch, the snow-terrain and landing are basically much softer. If you decide to try new tricks and jibs on this type of snow, the risk of injury will be much lower. You can think of the snow as a shock absorber – since the snow will not be too compact, it will be ideal for testing your freestyle skills.
Slush snow is not preferred by most snowboarders and skiers. However, it can be a lot of fun if you use the right techniques. Some people may prefer the slow speeds created by the slush. Also, the warmer temperatures are a personal favorite for some snowboarders and skiers.
5. Icy or Hard-Packed Pistes
Hard-packed and icy pistes are different. However, they usually go hand in hand. When you put on your ski pants, there is a high likelihood of finding the 2 pistes on the same hill and the same day.
Naturally, ice is smooth and most snow sports enthusiasts find it extremely easy to slide on it. However, since the ice is quite unforgiving, it requires more effort. On the other hand, hard-packed ice, although slippery, it is more forgiving than the ice.
Hard packed snow and ice are formed over time as the relative water content in the snow increases. The pistes are compacted due to the regular grooming, skiing, and snowboarding. Below, we have some specific areas where you may come across icy snow:
- Off groomed slopes – after the snow has frozen
- In areas where the snow cannons are off
- In areas where it has not snowed in a long time
- After the skiers and snowboarders have moved the snow into moguls
- After it has rained and frozen
- Where the snow has melted and then refrozen
- At night – when you are night skiing
While hard-packed snow is much easier to navigate compared to the ice, most skiers find it tough to plant an edge to make the grippy turns. When the hard-packed snow is smooth, it can be ideal for skiing at speed.
Ice is extremely difficult to ski on. If you plan to explore ice after donning your ski goggles, you will need to invest in skis featuring sharp edges. This should help you improve your chances of holding the turns on the ice.
If you have to use edge control when turning, you have to be extra careful. Keep in mind that you will be sliding much faster on the ice considered to when you are exploring fluffy snow types.
To turn, you can use the same technique you use on powder snow, however, since less friction exists, you will have to be more patient for the skis to react. Your movements have to be more precise.
To turn much faster, you will need to put additional pressure on the inside edge of the downhill ski. Avoid pacing too much pressure. Excess pressure can result in a fall.
When exploring ice, an alternative, however, is to simply glide over the ice at a higher speed without having to put an edge or many turns. This can make stopping quite challenging. If you are a racer, icy conditions may be ideal for you – they will help you reach the highest possible speeds.
To improve your stability on icy snow, you will need to make use of a wider stance. Obviously, you won’t be doing splits. All you will need to do is make additional space in the stance.
Stopping on hard-packed snow is quite tough. To succeed, you will have to dig sharply into the edge at a bigger angle – this will help you get a bit into the snow. On solid ice, you will need to keep in mind that stopping may be impossible, especially if the gradient is steep or your speed is too high.
Globo Surf Overview
Snow conditions and the general types do vary. One thing to keep in mind is that there is something extremely exciting about every snow condition. You may, however, need some special skills to explore some types of snow, for example, if you are just getting started with snowboarding or skiing, exploring hard-packed snow may not be a very good idea.
In most instances, no 2 snowfalls will be the same. Each day on the hill will probably be a new adventure for you. To be ready for your ski session, you may have to check the weather reports. Also, follow the advice provided by the local skiers.
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