The Alchemy of Spring Snow

When we are thinking about when to ski spring snow, seven factors should be considered: 1) Whether it froze the night before, 2) Current Temperature, 3) Amount of Sun on the Slope, 4) Slope Aspect, 5) Slope Angle or steepness, 6) wind, and 7) The temperature when the grooming took place. If the night before remained above freezing then it won't take long for the very thin crust formed from evaporative cooling to melt off and reveal nice soft corn. If the slope experienced a hard freeze (remained below freezing most of the night) it will take much longer for the snow to soften as its frozen much deeper. Current temps play a large role in softening the spring snow along with all the other factors. If temps are in the 40's things will generally loosen up much quicker, if hovering in the mid thirties (all things being equal) they will soften more slowly. Direct sun plays a huge role in the melt-freeze scenario, as long as it is a cloudless sky the sun will warm up the snow quite quickly in the spring but even high thin clouds can make a big difference. Slope aspect is a big player here. Slopes facing South East tend to soften much earlier than East or South slopes due to where we sit longitudinally. Slopes like Sunrise and the Silver Face are a perfect example. Steepness facing the rising sun point to a quicker softening, again, Sunrise and the Silver Face are prime examples where the flats might take quite a while longer to soften. Just like its effect on your bare skin, wind can slow melting down substantially by moving the warmth away from the surface slowing the melting process. This is even a bigger factor at Mt. Blows as we have been called. The temps when the grooming took place have everything to do with the EI (Enjoymeent Index). If the slope was groomed in the first shift on a warm spring night followed by dropping temps and a hard freeze, it leads to a rock hard surface in the morning until other processes can begin the melting process. If, on the other hand the slope is groomed during the the morning shift with the free water in frozen form then the tiller can do its job and we wind up with a nice soft tilled surface thats a blast to ski. Well there you have it... there are many factors to consider when planning your next spring ski looking for that perfectly soft surface. You are now armed with the knowlege to make an informed decision! Happy Turning! Sven


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