If you ski or snowboard, chances are you have read a snow report. Most people who ski do not understand the different types of snow and how it can affect their snowboard experience.
What exactly is snow? Most people think of snow as frozen water. This is true but now is much deeper than this. Snow is formed when water molecules freeze. These ice crystals form in hexagonal prism and no two snow crystals are alike. The ice crystals form and come back to earth in the form of snow.
There are several different types of snow:
- Snowflakes: Snowflakes are actually collections of snow crystals. When the snow crystals bind together in a loose ball they form snowflakes. If the snow is wet these snowflakes can get very large. One snowflake is actually over 100 snow crystals bound together.
- Snow crystals: Snow crystals are the single ice crystal that has formed around a dust molecule. The snow crystal is very small. They usually form straight from water vapor in the air. Snow crystals can be seen as a fine dust on your car or windshield.
- Rime: Rime is a tiny droplet of water that is super cooled. You will usually see Rime in foggy conditions. Rime freezes very quickly and sticks to whatever they touch. You can even see rime droplets on larger snowflakes.
- Hail: Hail is large chunks of ice. Hail will vary in size and is often seen in spring and fall. You can also see Hail in the summer time at higher elevations.
- Graupel: This is often referred to as “soft hail” It is frozen water droplets that come together loosely.
Every type of snow you see on the mountain is actually a combination of the types mentioned. Powder is a term most snowboarders love to hear. Everyone wants to shred fresh powder. Powder is actually a combination of freshly fallen snowflakes, snow crystals that are untouched. When you hear the term fresh powder it means light fluffy snow that is untouched by anyone. Most people equate the feeling of snowboarding on fresh powder to floating. Powder forms a soft, smooth surface and is soft after by snowboard enthusiasts.
You will also hear the term ice used in conjunction with snow conditions. Ice snow is the exact opposite of powder. Ice crystals may have fallen and formed a hard crust on the snow. Sometimes the top layer of snow melts and ice snow forms. It is really a layer of ice crystals on top of the snow. It is hated by all snowboarders. It is very hard and can cause injuries if you fall. It also makes the slope very fast and hard to control. You should be careful when snowboarding in this snow condition.
There are many different terms used to describe snow conditions. Learning the terms we have discussed will help you interpret the snow reports. Checking the snow report will help you have a great snowboarding day on the mountain.