Snow Conditions

I went snowboarding at Okemo in VT again today and while there was some great riding done, it was pretty warm and there were some major mashed potato conditions. It got me wondering about definitions of snow conditions that you see on TV and I found a handy lisiting which I am posting here so I can refer back to it in the future. Today’s conditions were- Primary Surface: Loose Granular; Secondary Surface: Spring Conditions.

Powder (P) – Cold, new, loose, fluffy, dry snow that has not been compacted. This is usually the product of fresh, natural snowfall.

Packed Powder (PP) – Powder snow, either natural or machine made, that has been packed down by skier/rider traffic or grooming machines.

Hard Pack (HP) – When natural or machine made snow becomes very firmly packed. You can plant a pole in hard pack snow, but it takes more effort than packed powder.

Loose Granular (LG) – This surface results after powder or packed powder thaws, then refreezes and re-crystalizes, or from an accumulation of sleet. This is also created by machine grooming frozen or icy snow.

Frozen Granular (FG) – This is often a misunderstood surface condtion. Frozen granular is a hard surface of old snow formed by granules freezing together after a rain or warm temperatures. Frozen Granular will support a ski pole stuck into the surface. In contrast, ice will not support the pole. Frozen granular often does return to Loose Granular after proper machine grooming.

Wet Packed Snow (WPS) – Natural or machine made snow that has been previously packed and becomes wet usually because of rainfall.

Wet Granular (WG) – Loose or frozen granular snow which has become wet from warm temperatures, rain or humidity. This is typically an easy to ski surface.

Wet Snow (WS) – Powder snow which has become moist and heavy due to a thaw or rainfall, or snow which was moist as it fell.

Windblown Snow (WBLN) – A windy day can blow the surface snow, either powder or granular, into drifts in some places, leaving a firmly packed base snow.

Variable Conditions (VC) – When no primary surface (70% or more) can be determined, this surface describes a range of surfaces that can be encountered.

Spring Conditions (SC) – This term is only used after March 1. This is the spring version of variable conditions. Like variable conditions, this term is used when when no primary surface (70% or more) can be determined, this surface describes a range of surfaces that can be encountered. It is not uncommon for other evidence of spring to be present such as thin and bare spots and discoloration.

Corn (Corn) – Ususally found in the spring. This surface is characterized by large, loose granules during the day which freeze together at night, and then loosen again during the day.

Icy (Icy) – Not to be confused with frozen granular, ice is a hard, glazed surface created either by freezing rain, ground water seeping up into the snow and freezing, or by the rapid freezing of snow saturated with water from rain or melting. Ice will not support a ski pole. It is important to note that frozen granular is opaque whereas ice is translucent.

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