Many variables affect snow conditions at resorts. Among these are temperature, the sun’s rays, gusting winds, humidity, a thaw-freeze cycle, snowpack depth, slope exposure, rain and snowfall.
Upon arriving at a ski area, go to the information desk and find out what kind of conditions you’ll face on the slopes that day.
Here’s a glossary of 22 snow conditions that can be found at ski areas:
BASE: Heavy, wet snow laid down before a resort opens to create a foundation to last the entire season.
BOILERPLATE: A slippery, glazed covering of ice on a run that can occur after it rains or when wet snow freezes.
BREAKABLE CRUST: A hard snow surface atop a softer layer. Such a crust could break under the weight of a turning ski.
BROKEN POWDER: Fresh powder that has been chopped up by skiers and snowboarders into soft mounds or chunks. Intermediates may find them tricky to navigate.
CHAMPAGNE POWDER: Coveted snow that’s exceptionally light and fluffy, like feathers in a pillow. It occurs under ideal weather conditions in higher elevations of Rocky Mountain states such as Colorado and Utah.
CORDUROY: Best of the best for intermediates. It’s an early morning snowpack that has just been machine-groomed to perfection on wide, easy-to-navigate runs.
CORN: A springtime delight is the pellet snow that resembles corn. It’s ideal for grooming.
CORNICE: An overhanging accumulation of wind-blown snow on the edge of a ridge or cliff.
FIRST TRACKS: A prearranged opportunity to ski on ungroomed or freshly groomed snow – depending on your skill – a half-hour or hour before the entire mountain opens to the public.
FLURRIES: Snow falling for short durations with changes in intensity. They usually result in little accumulation.
GROOMED: Slope terrain that is machine-groomed by snowcats to a smooth surface, with no moguls or hardpack.
HARDPACK or BULLETPROOF: Snow that seems as firm, solid and unforgiving as a city sidewalk because of weather conditions or because there hasn’t been recent snowfall. Turning and edging is more difficult, skis have a tendency to slide and taking a spill on hardpack can be painful. Many beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders mistakenly call hardpack ice.
MAN-MADE: Snow artificially produced by high-tech snowmaking systems.
MOGULS: Bumps of varied sizes on snow created by many skiers and snowboarders turning in the same places.
PACKED POWDER: Soft snow turned over and compacted by grooming machines to make slopes easier to ski.
POWDER: A thin, dry surface of snow consisting of loose, fresh ice crystals.
RAILROAD TRACKS: Hard, corrugated snow with ridges. Skis make a clickety-clack sound as they drop down a slope. Lesser-skilled riders should avoid such slopes. The ridges are rock-hard and can throw riders off balance. Falling on this snow type can be especially painful.
SLAB: Compacted or frozen snow lying beneath freshly fallen snow. It has the potential of sliding and starting an avalanche.
SLUSH: The sluggish, sticky morass caused by a hot, cloudless spring day that melts snow at the base of a ski mountain.
SNOWFALL: The depth of newly fallen snow.
SNOWPACK: Total snow on the ground, including new and old snow.
TABLETOP: A mound of snow with the top sheared off to provide a flat, level surface for snowboarders to jump over.
(By WALT ROESSING / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News)
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