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Different Types of Snow for Skiers

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/19/2007 | Sports

Just as there are different styles of skiing and different types of ski equipment, there are different types of snow that skiers may encounter, or prefer to ski on. The type of snow one is skiing on will often determine the style of skiing that they are doing, and the equipment that they are using as well.

Different types of snow occur due to the geographical location of the snow, and due to weather conditions and patterns. Snow may be light or heavy, and this is determined by the atmospheric conditions that exist when it is snowing. Snow may be very dry, or very wet. Typically, in the United States, snow in the East is very wet, while snow in the West is very dry and powdery.

There are other factors that affect and change snow as well. Wind, sunlight, and air temperature play an important role, but the traffic from skiers on the snow will also change it.

Powder snow is what skiers often seek the most. This snow is light and fluffy, and is often found right after it has snowed. The best powdered snow in the US is found in the West, with Utah reportedly having the absolute finest powder. Once powder snow becomes compressed, generally due to ski traffic or grooming, it is called packed powder. This is the type of snow that is best for beginners and most intermediate skiers.

Granular snow may be very wet or very dry. It is made up of small pellets of snow. Its skiable, but powder is much more preferred. Corn snow is snow that has thawed during the day and frozen again during the night. Corn snow is also skiable.

Ice, which isnt necessarily actual ice, is often preferred by expert skiers and racers. Again, in most cases, this isnt actually ice that has formed, it just looks like ice. Instead, it is wet granular snow that has melted and refrozen. Crust snow is also snow for expert skiers only. To picture crust snow, picture the layers of the earth. The upper layer, or crust, is much harder than the layers below it. Crust snow is often formed by freezing rain.

Another type of snow is called spring conditions. Spring conditions is a phrase that skiers use when referring to snow that goes through all the various snow phases, starting with hard snow in the morning, turning to granular snow later in the day, and then becoming much softer in the early afternoon.

But again, the snow that the majority of skiers seek is powder snow, with beginners seeking packed powder. This type of snow is so desired that skiers often participate in heli-skiing and snow cat skiing. These two types of skiing involve being transported to out of the way slopes, which are inaccessible by lifts or other vehicles, to take advantage of untracked powdered snow.

Man made snow, which is a substance that is produced by machines, and then blown over the slopes, is the same substance as powdered snow. But most resorts will then groom the man made snow to make it packed powder, especially on the beginner slopes.