5 Types of Snow and How They Function

It might seem like an odd idea but there are different types of snow and you need to know about them if you’re a keen skier. The different types of snow will affect how your skis ride and how you handle yourself. But let’s start right from the beginning…

You will probably remember form your science lessons as an 8 year old that snow is, essentially, frozen water. In the correct sense of it all, snow is actually a form of precipitation in the form of ice crystals. Quick science lesson over! Here’s the types of snow you need to know about:

Powder Snow

The sweetest type of snow there is. You’ll hear skiers and snowboarders the world over talking about their ‘sweetest powder day’ or the most recent dumping of the fluffy stuff. It’s the freshly fallen snow that’s sitting on the mountainside waiting for someone to come along  and break it in for the day, It’s so smooth that you’ll feel like you’re on the moon as you carve two fresh plank `lines through it it’s THAT soft. It’s often packed in thick layers that form a pillow for any crashes you decide to take! It’ll allow you to push yourself to stomp that new trick and hold your edge and it’s the most forgiving. Trust me … you want to get some powder skiing in.

You need to remember that speed is the one thing you’ll need. If you’re shredding with the pace of a 90 year old counting the candles on their birthday cake, which someone has put one extra on there for comedy effect, you won’t be going anywhere in a hurry. The powder will become the bog you hate as it swallows you up! Keep the speed up and you’ll be floating around like Neil Armstrong on a good day at work.
Even though it’s thick, wonderful and sublime, powder can cover up some rocks, crevasses and tree stumps so, even though it’s nice to be reckless, try not to get too carried away!

What powder skiing is all about in the powder mecca of Japan.

Crud

This is widely known as the next phase from powder. It’s when more and more people ride through powder, the snow gets packed in certain places, piled in others, generally an even uneven surface with slippery patches and huge lumps of powder. It’s not great fun to ride but it’s snow nonetheless so we can’t complain too much. Just because it’s uneven and bumpy doesn’t mean that you can’t have as much fun as you would have on it! Feel free to use every dip and ditch as a neat little kicker and use the excess snow to spray your pals.
One good tip for riding on crud is to make sure you keep your eyes on where you’re going. It can throw up a few surprises but learning it’s tricks will improve your riding no end.

How To Ski Crud / Tracked Powder

Crust

The name says it all. You’ll get crust when the sun and wind melt the top layer of powder and the cold then makes it freeze into a solid again. The crust will then sit upon softer powder snow giving one hell of an interesting ride! If you get soft crust then you’ll be able to break through it and ride the powder underneath but if the crust is tough, you’ll be riding the icy treat that no one enjoys. However there’s an unhappy medium in all of this. The crust can be patchy. You’ll be riding through some soft crust and smash your shins right into a frozen piece of hard crust, leaving you in agony and crying out for your mother.
Crust requires a more aggressive style of riding so make sure you jump turn or pull your knees up in the turns and you should remain relatively unscathed.

Slush

Long story short, slush is basically snow that has started to melt and therefore becomes more wet. It’s not pleasant, it’s not pretty but it’s not the end of the world. If you go on a late season holiday at Easter time you’ll be sure to find slush in some form. Wet snow is heavier than light snow (obviously), so make sure you nail the smooth carving turns and you’ll find your energy will last the day. Oh, and make sure that you know you’ll be getting wet, it is slush after all!

Ice

Let’s dispel a myth straight away – you’ll never find real ice on the slopes. People may say you can but you can’t. What you do find on the slopes is snow that has been melted and frozen many times, which then forms icy compacted snow. Ice (I’ll call it ice now as it’s easier) is hated by skiers and snowboarders everywhere. It’s the hell to the powder heaven. It’s the polar opposite as it’s hard and slippery and nowhere near as forgiving as powder. It’s incredibly hard to keep an edge so you have to make sure that you keep your moves subtle. You should also get your skis tuned up as much as possible as a good sharp edge will help on an icy surface. It’s incredibly rare that you’ll find a slope full of the icy stuff but beware that it can always happen!

Those are the 5 types of snow and how they perform. People may tell you there are a thousand more types of snow but, when we boil it down, it lands on these 5. Share it around and keep it in your head for future pub quiz knowledge or just impress the piste workers when you’re on your next skiing holiday.

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