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Utah powder vs interior British Columbia powder

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Hello!

 

To those who have some experience with both snowpacks - do you see any differences and if yes, what those are? I have heard a lot of times people comparing the BC powder to the utahn fluff but the mountains and the climates seem to be quite different, so should be the snow.

 

Would be really nice to hear from people who have real first-hand experience with both.

 

Thanks a lot in advance.

 

 

 

post #2 of 27

I have never been to BC, hoping to change that in the next few years.

 

Snow here varies form storm to storm and season to season, last season seemed to get more snow and heavier density than usual to me, for example. I would take it with a big grain of salt unless the person had skied multiple seasons in both regions.

post #3 of 27

I have skied all of BC from the Coast to Alberta and skied Utah several times. In BC the type of snow depends how close you are to the Pacific Ocean. Although I'm sure many Vancouverites will disagree, close to the coast genuine choker snorkel blower like you find at Alta and Snowbird is pretty rare even at Whistler and Baker. It is just not that cold nor that high and the weather is full of moisture directly off the Pacific. However what it lacks in quality it tends to make up in quantity especially at Mt Baker (just across the border and world record holder for most recorded snowfall anywhere). With some exceptions for altitude and mountain moisture shadows, the further east you go the dryer the snow gets. I ski Fernie which is 600 miles from the ocean and just about as far east as you can go before crossing the Continental Divide. The snow there is very enjoyable and tends to be much dryer but still isn't usually Alta blower although if it snows during a cold snap it can be very very good rather than just good. The closest I have skied to Alta blower is at Castle Mountain where we have midweek passes. The difference is that Castle is just barely on the east side of the Rockies in Alberta and the air is much dryer and therefore so is the snow. In an easterly up slope situation they can get a LOT of snow very quickly and it is blower for sure. Judge for yourself -

   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-QASwg-ZtU

More powder shots from someone new to Castle. Scroll to the very bottom of the page

 http://www.parkersspace.com/news.php#story30

I hope that helps

 

post #4 of 27

One thing about Utah powder, which although I don't live there I've skied it plenty.  It's not always the dry blower powder.  In fact, maybe a rough guess is that nice light, dry powder only occurs half the time.  Plenty of storms bring in a wetter snow. 

post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks, you confirmed my thoughts regarding the inconsistencies and west to east snow changes.

post #6 of 27

Im certainly not well enough travelled to answer the question,  but I find the point about being nearer to the ocean led to wetter snow contrary to my personal experience ( not sure if that was castle Dave intention or just way I inturpreted it?)  I did ski Rusutsu In Feb and at one point you look down on a bay, whilst I couldnt throw a rock and hit the water it wasnt that far away! 

Point is I have not seen dryer powder than at that loctation or the Island of Hokaido in general,   having only been there once I can only comment on that occassion but from all reports it is typical.

Richo

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Castle Dave View Post

I have skied all of BC from the Coast to Alberta and skied Utah several times. In BC the type of snow depends how close you are to the Pacific Ocean. Although I'm sure many Vancouverites will disagree, close to the coast genuine choker snorkel blower like you find at Alta and Snowbird is pretty rare even at Whistler and Baker. It is just not that cold nor that high and the weather is full of moisture directly off the Pacific. However what it lacks in quality it tends to make up in quantity especially at Mt Baker (just across the border and world record holder for most recorded snowfall anywhere). With some exceptions for altitude and mountain moisture shadows, the further east you go the dryer the snow gets. I ski Fernie which is 600 miles from the ocean and just about as far east as you can go before crossing the Continental Divide. The snow there is very enjoyable and tends to be much dryer but still isn't usually Alta blower although if it snows during a cold snap it can be very very good rather than just good. The closest I have skied to Alta blower is at Castle Mountain where we have midweek passes. The difference is that Castle is just barely on the east side of the Rockies in Alberta and the air is much dryer and therefore so is the snow. In an easterly up slope situation they can get a LOT of snow very quickly and it is blower for sure. Judge for yourself -

   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-QASwg-ZtU

More powder shots from someone new to Castle. Scroll to the very bottom of the page

 http://www.parkersspace.com/news.php#story30

I hope that helps

 



 

post #7 of 27

Japan operates with a different weather phenomenon, based on the cold air from Siberia and the Sea of Japan. It's common to see snow more or less down to sea level there, which is unusual anywhere, especially at that latitude.

post #8 of 27

Richo and Joska74 are exactly right.I have not been to Japan (dammit) but we see the same phenomenon in North America along the south and east shores of the Great Lakes, It is called 'lake effect snow' caused by bone chilling super dry Arctic air coming out of the northwest and crossing a few hundred miles of relatively warm, unfrozen water. The air picks up the moisture from the lakes then dumps when it hits land.

That is by far the lightest snow I have ever experienced; the bad news is there are no mountains to speak of. (Cue booing from all the Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin skiers). Same thing in Japan except even colder air, more moisture and, luckily for them, real mountains. The fact that it's salt water doesn't matter.

post #9 of 27

A little side chatter here:

 

As a Mt. Baker homer I read constantly here on Epic about how lousy our snow on the coast is compared to the etherial Alta "blower pow," and how many would never think of going to a place like Whistler because it's snow is so heavy and bad.

 

I have not once read in any thread before this one that the snow at Alta is anything less than supernatural.  It's somewhat gratifying to hear that there are sometimes less than perfect conditions there and that that it occupies the real world like the rest of us.

 

I'd still like to ski there some day.

post #10 of 27

For the record I lived in the Fraser Valley most of my life and skied Baker for more than 20 years. I would give up Castle and Fernie in an instant to ski back at Baker. It is simply awsome. Besides if you learned to ski Baker 'powder' back in the day of 203 toothpicks you can ski powder anywhere.

post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Castle Dave View Post

Besides if you learned to ski Baker 'powder' back in the day of 203 toothpicks you can ski powder anywhere.


203?  You skied on shorties!

 

post #12 of 27

I've skied quite a bit in BC Canada and Utah over the years, including a few heli weeks in BC.  Powder varies from day to day everywhere it falls, but I have never experienced super light Utah blower in Canada.  I've had a lot of >7% moisture content days in Utah. The most memorable was a day at Snowbird where the moisture content was 4.4% (over 95% air). I've had lots of sweet powder in Canada, but nothing that compares to that.  I am sure it happens, but not on the regular basis that Utah gets it.

post #13 of 27

Whistler has green garbage bags with their logo on them and arm and neck holes already cut. That is way too prepared for rain. They also call it powder even when you can make snow balls out of the snow. Having said that, I have also skied dry thigh deep snow at Whistler but you only get two runs before it is skied out.

 

Some places in southern B.C. like Red and Fernie can get temperature fluctuations, mild weather and rain and thus heavy snow but also dry snow as well. At my home mountain, Sun Peaks, B.C. has very dry air and rain is quite rare, so the snow and snow pack is usually drier than anywhere else in B.C., however the volume of annual snowfall is less than other B.C. resorts. I guess what I am saying is that there a lot of weather and snow variation within B.C.

post #14 of 27

Where I think UT really separates itself is in the combination of quantity and quality. Colorado snow is actually drier, but they don't get nearly as much at their resorts. Resorts in the Cascades and Sierras get as much or more, but their snow is heavier and wetter on average. Nowhere in North America has multiple resorts that average 500+ inches of snow and offer consistent blower conditions. Utah basically gives you the best chance to not just get a storm but to get an epic blower storm.

 

I've never ridden interior BC, but from what I've heard, it would be a solid second in terms of quality/quantity. Other resorts like Targhee also seem to be in that conversation.

post #15 of 27

Skied both. 

 

Best powder in BC was at Whitewater.  Best powder in Utah was at Snowbird.  Utah's was drier and lighter.  But a good cold JANUARY in BC can produce real good blower powder for a week as sometimes the weather never warms in the daytime above somewhere in the 20's.  When this happens up here in BC or Inland PNW the powder is awesome all day and since we have less skiers the powder experience can be better/longer  than Utah.

 

They're both good, depends on the day.

post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Castle Dave View Post

Richo and Joska74 are exactly right.I have not been to Japan (dammit) but we see the same phenomenon in North America along the south and east shores of the Great Lakes, It is called 'lake effect snow' caused by bone chilling super dry Arctic air coming out of the northwest and crossing a few hundred miles of relatively warm, unfrozen water. The air picks up the moisture from the lakes then dumps when it hits land.

That is by far the lightest snow I have ever experienced; the bad news is there are no mountains to speak of. (Cue booing from all the Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin skiers). Same thing in Japan except even colder air, more moisture and, luckily for them, real mountains. The fact that it's salt water doesn't matter.



Way too much analysis going on here...

 

From someone who lives/skis in the lake effect country mentioned above there's two types of snow- packing snow and powder snow.

 

If its cold you get powder snow.

If its warm you get packing snow.

 

The funny thing is that when we were kids, we dreaded powder snow as you couldn't make snowballs, snowmen, or snowforts.... imagine the forts the kids at Mount Baker are making!!!!!  biggrin.gif

post #17 of 27


agree entirely with quote below for its simplicity

 

.....i often ski at cypress mtn here in west vancouver bc mid week and despite living on the coast right by the ocean, when the

temp gets down to -3- to -6c well then in a nutshell you get snow with that nice dry 'styrofoam' crunch sound--it's dry, fast and light

 

 .... and when the temp rises to +2- to +4C it's become wetter, heavier, slower porridge.

 

not doubting the interior or colorado or new mexico or utah or the rockies have 'drier' snow, but all in all....

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post



Way too much analysis going on here...

 

From someone who lives/skis in the lake effect country mentioned above there's two types of snow- packing snow and powder snow.

 

If its cold you get powder snow.

If its warm you get packing snow.

 

The funny thing is that when we were kids, we dreaded powder snow as you couldn't make snowballs, snowmen, or snowforts.... imagine the forts the kids at Mount Baker are making!!!!!  biggrin.gif



 


Edited by canali - 11/27/11 at 10:25am
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post



Way too much analysis going on here...

 

From someone who lives/skis in the lake effect country mentioned above there's two types of snow- packing snow and powder snow.

 

If its cold you get powder snow.

If its warm you get packing snow.

 

The funny thing is that when we were kids, we dreaded powder snow as you couldn't make snowballs, snowmen, or snowforts.... imagine the forts the kids at Mount Baker are making!!!!!  biggrin.gif

I still remember my first experience with lake effect powder. I had just moved to Sault Ste. Marie, and on Christmas Eve, two feet of snow rolled in off Lake Superior. I remember walking down the middle of the street in thigh-deep powder. The snow was so light, it was nearly as effortless as walking on dry land. I've never seen snow like that here in the Ottawa Valley.
 

 

post #19 of 27

This thread is missing half the picture, what happens to the snow AFTER it falls. I travel from Phoenix to Montana twice a month stopping to ski in SLC each time.  Over the last two years I have had real time comparisons of Utah vs Montana snow quality. I realize that Montana is not interior BC, but my experience may shed some light on this topic.

 

Utah truly has the greatest snow on Earth, while it is falling and until the next day when the sun shines.  Utah gets more sun and more direct sun than the more Northern Rockies. This melts the fresh snow quickly.  Fortunately for Utah, (especially LCC) it snows every two-three days (130 out of 180 days at Alta last year)  through the heart of the season. This assures fresh snow for a majority of skiing days.  Montana may only get snow once a week, but it lasts. I have many times skied the same storm cycle in SLC one day and Montana the next. Five day old snow at Snowbird (fortunately a rare occurrence)  is a little heavy and chunky whereas snow from the same storm at Bridger Bowl still squeaks and is very light. This makes sense given the less direct sun in Montana (due to higher latitude) and the higher percentage of shaded terrain (more high alpine type peaks that shade the majority of skiable terrain). Of course this also means more problem with flat light on the edges of the day.

 

I think both environments make for great but different skiing. Knowing this difference might help those that have the ability to effect a last minute change of venue.

 

 

post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcmaxwell View Post

This thread is missing half the picture, what happens to the snow AFTER it falls. I travel from Phoenix to Montana twice a month stopping to ski in SLC each time.  Over the last two years I have had real time comparisons of Utah vs Montana snow quality. I realize that Montana is not interior BC, but my experience may shed some light on this topic.

 

Utah truly has the greatest snow on Earth, while it is falling and until the next day when the sun shines.  Utah gets more sun and more direct sun than the more Northern Rockies. This melts the fresh snow quickly.  Fortunately for Utah, (especially LCC) it snows every two-three days (130 out of 180 days at Alta last year)  through the heart of the season. This assures fresh snow for a majority of skiing days.  Montana may only get snow once a week, but it lasts. I have many times skied the same storm cycle in SLC one day and Montana the next. Five day old snow at Snowbird (fortunately a rare occurrence)  is a little heavy and chunky whereas snow from the same storm at Bridger Bowl still squeaks and is very light. This makes sense given the less direct sun in Montana (due to higher latitude) and the higher percentage of shaded terrain (more high alpine type peaks that shade the majority of skiable terrain). Of course this also means more problem with flat light on the edges of the day.

 

I think both environments make for great but different skiing. Knowing this difference might help those that have the ability to effect a last minute change of venue.

 

 




Very interesting comment about snow quality after it falls. At my home mountain, Sun Peaks, we often hear comments about how dry the air seems from skiers who have just arrived after skiing other B.C. resorts. It is quite common to get light snow all day long (like we did todayyahoo.gif) and then it clears off at night, the temp drops and the dry snow gets drier . Next day the snow is better than when it fell from the sky.

 

Another thing that happens with near perfect powder is that on a powder morning as skiers make turns in the fresh powder, the sprayed snow tends to pile up in triangles or powder pie slices, so in the afternoon you aim for the powder pies and the turns are deeper than what fell overnight and almost as much fun as the fresh stuff.

 

In the Kootnays when they get the real dry snow they call it "Cold Smoke". At Sun Peaks we get that stuff so often we just call it snow.biggrin.gif

post #21 of 27

I guess Montana has more in common with the BC interior than I thought!

 

 

cfiles21886.jpg

post #22 of 27

Tony Crocker's http://bestsnow.net/ has some analysis on this.  Check out 

Top 10 Areas for Powder - November 2002 SKIING Magazine

and

 

5 New Hot Spots for Powder - November 2003 SKIING Magazine

 

To summarize, it looks like the lightest powder can be found in Colorado (6-7% water content) while Utah and the BC interior tend to both be around 8 to 9% (which compares favorable to places like Kirkwood/Tahoe 10-11% and Baker at 13%)  He indicated that some of these are estimates that he had not been tracking long enough to have firmer numbers.  He is a stats geek, in a good way, so I trust him more than most.  Maybe he will jump in here if he has any updated numbers. 

 

Like some have said about Utah, I think last season Colorado saw more storms with heavier snow than I recall in previous years, but don't have data to back it up.  

post #23 of 27

Actually, once the season gets going here (we haven't had snow to speak of yet...looks like there SHOULD BE a delayed opening..) we'll get just a few inches at Whitefish most days.  Probably because we are on the other side of the Divide, our weather is different from that near Bozeman.  We don't usually get big dumps here.  Sure they come occasionally, but it's the exception.  This article, about putting up a beacon downtown for powder days says that days with a six inch dump or more happened 16 times or more in 2008-09, five times in 2009-10 and 18 times last season.  

 

On the other hand, the snow does last, probably because of the amount of trees we have and the gray days.  All the tourists gush about the sunny days.  I am not so happy about them.  
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcmaxwell View Post

This thread is missing half the picture, what happens to the snow AFTER it falls. I travel from Phoenix to Montana twice a month stopping to ski in SLC each time.  Over the last two years I have had real time comparisons of Utah vs Montana snow quality. I realize that Montana is not interior BC, but my experience may shed some light on this topic.

 

SNIP

 

  Montana may only get snow once a week, but it lasts. I have many times skied the same storm cycle in SLC one day and Montana the next. Five day old snow at Snowbird (fortunately a rare occurrence)  is a little heavy and chunky whereas snow from the same storm at Bridger Bowl still squeaks and is very light. This makes sense given the less direct sun in Montana (due to higher latitude) and the higher percentage of shaded terrain (more high alpine type peaks that shade the majority of skiable terrain). Of course this also means more problem with flat light on the edges of the day.

 

I think both environments make for great but different skiing. Knowing this difference might help those that have the ability to effect a last minute change of venue.

 

 



 

post #24 of 27
When it comes to powder quality, altitude is king IMO.

Interior BC has latitude on its side - ie: its cold because its North. But because the elevations are not large, it is susceptible to warmer, wetter storms from the south where rain is a possibility. However if the storms are coming in from the North then temperature won't be an issue and the powder will be excellent.

By comparison Utah has the bulk of it's skiing above about 7000' - if it gets a SW 'Pineapple Express' the snow quality will suffer - there's no doubt about that, but the altitude dictates that at the very least it will be snow.

In the 6 years I lived in Park City I saw it rain at the base on a handful of occasions and only saw rain to the peak once. That day the snow level would have been mid mountain in the Cottonwoods. From what I'm led to believe it is more frequent in Interior BC

HOWEVER, Interior BC has one of the largest concentration of Cat & Heli skiing operators in the world, so that is a pretty good endorsement of the snow quality on the whole. But I do concede that they have larger areas and elevations etc they can use for different weather patterns.
post #25 of 27

I have analyzed snow density is some more detail here (scroll to bottom of page), using daily data to compare not only average density but distribution of snow densities at Alta, Mammoth and Mt. Mansfield: http://bestsnow.net/snoqlnet.htm .

 

The avalanche research community classifies snowfall locations as Coastal, Intermountain or Continental.  The Wasatch, Tetons and Selkirks/Monashees of interior B.C. fall in the intermountain sweet spot of high quantity and fairly low average density of 8-9%.  Japan's midwinter snow also tends to average in that 8% range, because it's mostly "lake effect," which as a poster above noted, tends to be much drier than one would otherwise expect.  The lowest average densities are in the Continental climates of Colorado and Alberta, but quantity tends to be lower and avalanche risk the highest.  Thus there's a lot of skiing on the subsurface because there's not enough new snow at one time for flotation.  That said I've had 5 ski days lifetime at Castle Mt., 3 of them were powder days and one of them was a top 3 powder day lifetime for lift service.

 

I have extensive ski experience in both Utah http://bestsnow.net/vft_utah.htm and interior B.C. http://bestsnow.net/vft_croc.htm .  The comment about better midwinter snow preservation due to less and weaker sun in B.C. is true.  Unfortunately the comment about winter rain incidence due to lower altitude is also true.   I had 3 days of cat skiing immediately after the 2005 Tropical Punch and they were some of the worst snow conditions I've ever skied.  Obviously that's the exception because I'm still going to B.C. for cat skiing nearly every year, including 8 days scheduled for January 2012 at Mustang and Baldface.  With regard to Utah I own a timeshare week at Snowbird, which I still regard as the best lift served skiing in the world with 120+ lift served areas skied, and always looking to add a few more each season.

 

 

post #26 of 27

Does Tony or anyone have a guess of what percent of the yearly snowfall in the Cottonwoods is lake effect?

post #27 of 27

 

Quote:
Does Tony or anyone have a guess of what percent of the yearly snowfall in the Cottonwoods is lake effect?

I've heard 10%. That's anecdotal but sounds reasonable.  The fetch over the Great Salt Lake is marginal in distance.  The only long fetch is 80 miles NW to SE.  If you extend that line further SE you do hit the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.  The Cottonwood Canyons have ideal orographic uplift in terms of vertical rise ~7,000 feet and perpendicular orientation to prevailing west to east airflow.  And they are box canyons that tend to trap storms and make them linger awhile.

 

The Japan "lake effect" is in a class by itself.  Minimum 250 miles fetch.  Massive temperature difference between subzero air coming off Siberia and the ocean water.  Nearly every mountain of 4,000+ feet along the west coast of Honshu or Hokkaido gets at least 400 inches a year.  2/3 of that snow is in December/January when that Siberian air is the coldest.

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