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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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Winter is the reason many hiking clubs avoid using white blazes as trail markings.

Bob, the Natureguy, described how the Conservation Trail, a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), became blazed orange:
“The group was hiking the Finger Lakes Trail in Allegany State Park. These were old timers in the Finger Lakes Trail organization. It was a nice fall day. A freak snowstorm hit while they were on the trail. It took them hours to get back since the early wet snow stuck to the trees and obscured the white blazes. They had to brush every tree to look for blazes and find their way back. They vowed the new trail would not have that problem and chose orange for the Conservation Trail blazes.”

He went on to explain, “It would be a momentous task to change the blazing of the FLT. It would be very expensive and take many dollars and many years. Not just the marks, but all the printed literature and reference material would have to be changed. And there is logic to the color schemes when there are trail junctions. Over almost a 1/2 century those color schemes have been worked out so there are no conflicts. All trails that intersect with the FLT could be affected. It is not just one trail. The FLT is a primary trail that a multitude of trails across the state radiate from or intersect. So, unfortunately, the color is what is, for bad or good and do not expect it to change.”

It is easy to loose the white blazes in a white-out of snow, so be extra careful when hiking or snowshoeing white-blazed trails such as the Finger Lakes Trail. Always take some extra warm/dry layers with you and some snacks and water in case your outing gets extended due to a change in conditions.

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Scroll below to see how cities in the U.S. get hit with rain and snow during the winter months. Continue down for historic winter storms and what to wear to stay dry and warm this winter.

Snow clothing keeps you warm in the winter months

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Click here to take a poetic and pictorial snowmobile ride through the snow in Oswego County with Kelly.

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Here’s a sure sign that winter is coming – the Rochester Nordic Ski Club is beginning their season of meetings, events, and trips. Click here to read their latest newsletter: rochnordic. The newsletter also contains interesting charts showing average snowfalls across the state.


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