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skiMany 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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It’s winter – time to plan for some fun in the snow. If you live in or near Monroe, Wayne or Ontario Counties, there are trails nearby that provide opportunities for a quick evening moonlit ski or a longer weekend outing. Here are 10 of my favoritesSnow Trails.

Monroe County
1. Mendon Ponds Park in Mendon has 20 miles of groomed trails for all levels of ability. The trails wind among the eskers, kames and kettle ponds of this glacially sculpted landscape. It’s a popular winter playground for avid skiers.
2. Powder Mills Park in Pittsford is another hilly park with 8 miles of marked, groomed trails.
3. For less hilly terrain, try Webster Park along the shore of Lake Ontario. It is the beneficiary of lake effect snows. Escape into the wilderness in the middle of suburbia on a myriad of loop trails.
4. Genesee Country Nature Center in Mumford is great for families. There’s a small entrance fee, but you’ll find 4.5 miles of easy, groomed trails, a warming hut, and restrooms. Plus you can rent skis or snowshoes on site.

Ontario County
5. Canadice Lake Trail parallels the west shore of Canadice Lake with gorgeous views for an easy 7.4 mile round trip. For more of a challenge, try the side loop trails up the steep hillside.
6. Cumming Nature Center is a week-end family favorite with amenities and equipment rentals. It offers 15 miles of groomed trails. There is a small entrance fee.
7. Skiers’ Mecca is Harriet Hollister State Memorial Recreation Area south of Honeoye Lake. This park sits at high elevation and promises snow cover when the rest of the area is barren. The 20 miles of trails are groomed by volunteers from the N.Y.S. Section V Ski League and are used for ski races. The trails wind through pristine woods and one trail offers a panoramic view north over Honeoye Lake.

Wayne County
8. Casey Park in Ontario offers a 1.8-mile round trip on a flat trail along the shore of a lake that formed in an old iron ore quarry. The more adventurous can continue around the lake on the hilly, narrow north shore trail with gorgeous views down to the lake.
9. Blue Cut Nature Center sits between Newark and Lyons. Here you’ll find 2 miles of easy trails through the woods and along a marshland. The trails are free, but don’t expect amenities.

When you head out to ski, it’s helpful to have a guide specific to winter such as the local guidebook “Snow Trails.” The guide describes which parking areas are plowed in winter, which roads remain unplowed and become part of the ski trail network. You’ll also learn how each trail is rated in terms of beginner, intermediate and expert runs, and which trails are too narrow and steep and are best left for adventurers on snowshoes.

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7 winter ways to enjoy Central New York in snow season

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This article is titled Winter Trail Hiking Etiquette but it’s actually about etiquette while cross-country skiing. It’s worth a read.

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skichairIn Vermont there’s a company called Green Mountain Ski Chair that builds hand-crafted ski furniture with the finest building materials and recycled skis and snowboards. Awesome idea! Check out their product line at GMSC. If you’re heading to Vermont, gather up your old equipment and make a donation.

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Holiday Valley, a ski resort in Ellicottville, NY, 55 miles south of Buffalo and a world away from ski-town glamour. Perfect! Read about Holiday Valley in this NY Times article.

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The state maintains more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails in Adirondack Park, and all of them are open to cross-country skiers. At least, in theory. The reality is that many trails are too steep, too narrow or too rocky. Here are some good skiing trails, listed from south to north. All of the destinations — except Camp Santanoni — are close to the Northway/Route 73 corridor that runs from the Capital Region to Lake Placid.

So says Phil Brown in the Albany Times Union. Read his recommendations here.

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