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The best and worst sun exposure

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I'm wanting to know which sides to a mountain are best and worst for sun exposure. 

 

I assume North is the best since the sun is slightly toward the South as it rises and sets. 

 

I assume East is second best since the temperature in the morning (when the sun is on the east facing slopes) would be lower.

 

But which is the worst, South or West?  South would get it all throughout the day but West would get it the worst in the afternoon when the temps are the highest. 

 

Any thoughts would be appreciated. 

post #2 of 21

???

 

Best or worst for what?

Which hemisphere are you in?

What time of year?

What latitude are you at?

What elevation?

 

I assume you are refering to snow quality...but if you are north, then the effects on snow from the sun are almost nil until late spring...but these effects are not necissarily bad either......

post #3 of 21

Not saying skierdude is wrong, the sun is less intense in general at the poles vs equator. 

 

But, as you go further North, the sun hangs lower in the sky. This means Northern aspects receive even less sun. However, the radiation is hitting the South aspect at a more direct angle therefore stronger. 

 

Which simply means the more northern you go, the greater the difference between N/S aspects. 

 

Judging by how the mountains melt out, South gets it worst than west. 

post #4 of 21

My point was really that in many locations, sun exposure is pretty irrelevant.

 

For example in Whistler elevation plays a much bigger role in snow quality then sun does.  Wind exposure would be the next biggest thing.  The sun is so low that its effect on snow is pretty minimal until spring at least, when it starts to play more of a role...but even then the above two criteria of elevation and wind still trump sun.  Of course this isnt always the case.  In places like AUS, sun is huge.  For example at Thredbo, one side of the valley (where the ski resort is) has snow...the other side which faces North and thus gets more sun, is bare.

post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View Post

???

 

Best or worst for what?

Which hemisphere are you in?

What time of year?

What latitude are you at?

What elevation?

 

I assume you are refering to snow quality...but if you are north, then the effects on snow from the sun are almost nil until late spring...but these effects are not necissarily bad either......


Best and worst for snow quality. 

Northern hemisphere, Wyoming. 

All ski season

around 10,000

 

I'm not sure how elevation has any relevance to my question though.  If you take a resort and raise it 2,000 feet or lower it 2,000 feet the comparisons between the different faces of the mountain should remain the same, right? 

post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Conklin View Post


Best and worst for snow quality. 

Northern hemisphere, Wyoming. 

All ski season

around 10,000

 

I'm not sure how elevation has any relevance to my question though.  If you take a resort and raise it 2,000 feet or lower it 2,000 feet the comparisons between the different faces of the mountain should remain the same, right?

 

Sorta...but not really.

 

If say you are at 10000ft  and in the sun it is -10C and in the shade -14C...I would argue there is little effect on the snow at all.  If you are at say 5000ft, and in the sun it is 2C and in the shade it is -2C...big difference in snow quality.

 

So the suns effect increases as you go south and or get later in the season or drop in elevation. 

 

But in all things beging equal scenario for the Northern Hemisphere:  I would say - S is worst, doubt their is much difference between East and West...then North.

post #7 of 21

Isnt the real question...why are you asking this??????????

post #8 of 21

In many situations having a choice of different aspects & elevations to ski is a good thing, especially in springtime.  Skiing is not all about cold, dry powder.  I want a MOUNTAIN with lots of variety.

 

JF

post #9 of 21

Everything makes a difference with snow.  Direction or aspect is only one thing as others are saying here.  It plays in with elevation, temperature, wind, snow layering, tree cover, humidity and maybe a dozen other things.  That is one of the amazing things about the sport.  On the next run when something has altered it might ski totally different.

 

These guys aren't trying to make a simple question complex, they are just pointing out the complexity of what you ask.  Kind of like asking you to simply explain how you tie your shoes.

post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View Post

Isnt the real question...why are you asking this??????????


No. 

 

My reason for asking is that I am considering a few different resorts to ski at this winter and I'm having a hard time finding a clear winner so I'm trying to take everything into consideration. 

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View Post

 

Sorta...but not really.

 

If say you are at 10000ft  and in the sun it is -10C and in the shade -14C...I would argue there is little effect on the snow at all.  If you are at say 5000ft, and in the sun it is 2C and in the shade it is -2C...big difference in snow quality.

 

So the suns effect increases as you go south and or get later in the season or drop in elevation. 

 

But in all things beging equal scenario for the Northern Hemisphere:  I would say - S is worst, doubt their is much difference between East and West...then North.


Altitude can certainly change the snow on a given face of the mountain but that's not what I'm talking about.  I said "If you take a resort and raise it 2,000 feet or lower it 2,000 feet the comparisons between the different faces of the mountain should remain the same, right?"  To explain further, this is saying that if the West face is generally preferable to the South face at a resort that is at 8,000 feet then the West face would still generally be preferable to the South face if you raised the mountain to 10,000 feet or lowered it to 6,000 feet.  Right? 

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Conklin View Post


Altitude can certainly change the snow on a given face of the mountain but that's not what I'm talking about.  I said "If you take a resort and raise it 2,000 feet or lower it 2,000 feet the comparisons between the different faces of the mountain should remain the same, right?"  To explain further, this is saying that if the West face is generally preferable to the South face at a resort that is at 8,000 feet then the West face would still generally be preferable to the South face if you raised the mountain to 10,000 feet or lowered it to 6,000 feet.  Right? 

 

Good luck to you, I hope you find the resort you are looking for.

post #13 of 21

The key difference is between north and south.  It's not only the obvious more sun on a south exposure.  On north facing slopes the steeper runs are more shaded and better preserved.  On south facing runs the steeper runs get sun affected and melt/freeze faster.  So if you're skiing intermediate groomers the difference is more modest, but if you're skiing ungroomed steeps the difference is critical.  Often south facing steeps will be closed due to sketchy cover or icy conditions after a melt/freeze.  North facing steeps often retain packed powder conditions deep into spring.  South facing steeps need to stay below about 20F on a sunny day to avoid a melt/freeze by my observation.

Quote:
said "If you take a resort and raise it 2,000 feet or lower it 2,000 feet the comparisons between the different faces of the mountain should remain the same, right?"

This is true but altitude is also an important factor in snow preservation as it tends to lower both temperatures and humidity.

Quote:
It plays in with elevation, temperature, wind, snow layering, tree cover, humidity and maybe a dozen other things.

And these effects vary by season.  Trees for example shade the snow in winter but transmit heat into the snow in late spring/summer.

East and west exposures are season sensitive.  At winter solstice the sun rises/sets to the southeast/southwest while at March equinox it rises due east and sets due west.  Thus due east and west facing slopes have weak sun exposure through early February and quite strong sun exposure in March/April.  Another factor I see is the chronic midwinter cloudiness in western Canada.  There is not much sun deterioration if the sun is not out. So the wide range of exposures up there is not so critical December-February.  In March I think you need to pay attention to exposure anywhere.

 

In many places east exposure is considered more favorable than west if there are chronic winds that are typically west to east and thus tend to strip snow from exposed west faces and deposit the snow on the east faces.

post #14 of 21
Wow... This is really an odd question. Many mountains don't have one predominant face. Some days you ski the south, some days the north,some days the east, etc... What about tree line? In the middle of a cycle, the best aspect of anything might not be skiable at all due to really poor vis. In that case, trees on another part of the mountain would be your ticket... Then there's following spring corn, etc.... The best aspect is completely subject to weather, temp, wind, etc... on a given day. In the PNW in a typical season, you'll still ski south'ish facing aspects later in the season at lower altitude rhan a place like JH because there's deeper snowpack... Now you have add continental vs. maritime snowpack in the equation. Then there's snow stability and safety to the two aforementioned if you're considering doing any ski touring. It's multi-variable calculus in an alpine environment, and the reason why you're not getting a straight answer, Micheal.
Edited by markojp - 9/23/12 at 11:19pm
post #15 of 21

Check out Vail's layout. That place has every direction covered.

 

Front side face is primarily N , the Back Bowls are S and SE, Blue Sky is more NW and W. It all gets covered in 350"+, but conditions can greatly vary all over the mountain. 

post #16 of 21
Quote:
This is really an odd question......It's multi-variable calculus in an alpine environment, and the reason why you're not getting a straight answer, Michael.

Actually it's a good question IMHO, as I frequently refer to exposure in snow preservation comments and assume that most skiers know what I mean.  Michael is perhaps not getting the simple answer he may have wanted, but he's getting more nuanced answers which are hopefully informative.

 

 More nuance...

Quote:
The best aspect is completely subject to weather, temp, wind, etc... on a given day.

We've all had some days where the north faces are refrozen and sun softened exposures had the best skiing.  But over the course of a whole season (and particularly the late season) there will be far more days when north is preferred.

Quote:
you'll still ski south'ish facing aspects later in the season at lower altitude than a place like JH because there's deeper snowpack... Now you have add continental vs. maritime snowpack in the equation. Then there's snow stability and safety to the two aforementioned if you're considering doing any ski touring.

While JH snowpack is not as deep as PNW snowpack, I'm fairly sure that in a normal season it remains covered to its early April close.  Spring closure of the lower faces at Jackson in March is more likely due to refrozen conditions or wet snow instability considered dangerous by patrol.  These issues within most ski area boundaries at more north-facing Alta/Snowbird are infrequent until mid-May or so. 

 

 My understanding (from the ISSW conference I attended 2 years ago) is that wet snow instability is not yet well understood.  Thus A-Basin's conservatism about closing Pali early to mid-May since the late May 2005 accident.  I'm fairly sure than when snowpacks get down to 2-3 feet and become isothermic they are more unstable.  So that would contribute to the rationale for the PMW late season snowpack being safer, particularly in the backcountry.

post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

Actually it's a good question IMHO, as I frequently refer to exposure in snow preservation comments and assume that most skiers know what I mean.  Michael is perhaps not getting the simple answer he may have wanted, but he's getting more nuanced answers which are hopefully informative.

  I'm fairly sure than when snowpacks get down to 2-3 feet and become isothermic they are more unstable.  So that would contribute to the rationale for the PMW late season snowpack being safer, particularly in the backcountry.

Which is why many of us did bother to answer. The 'odd' comes from the idea that someone who's a self proclaimed expert skier who likes steep terrain and hucking 10-20'er's doesn't have an idea about the importance and variability of 'aspect' already.

Lower down...Iin general, maritime snowpack is more stable than continental snowpack.

2-3' of isothermic snow would be highly dependent on the natural base material and potential thermal mass of ( rock, scree, grass, brush, etc....) for general stability.
post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post


Which is why many of us did bother to answer. The 'odd' comes from the idea that someone who's a self proclaimed expert skier who likes steep terrain and hucking 10-20'er's doesn't have an idea about the importance and variability of 'aspect' already.
Lower down...Iin general, maritime snowpack is more stable than continental snowpack.
2-3' of isothermic snow would be highly dependent on the natural base material and potential thermal mass of ( rock, scree, grass, brush, etc....) for general stability.


So it's a good question, just not one that I should have asked? 

 

You apparently have me confused with someone else because I never claimed to be an expert skier.  On the contrary I have explicitly stated that I prefer advanced terrain to expert terrain.  I've done plenty of expert runs but I'm not good enough to really enjoy them.  As for going off a carefully chosen 15 foot drop on a heavy powder day I don't really see what the big deal is.  That doesn't take that much skill at all.  I think if you stopped and interviewed people who are skiing advanced terrain and hucking 15 foot cliffs you would find that many of them have no better understanding that I did about the effects of sun exposure.  After all, it's not like I was completely clueless, I was right about the North and East facing slopes just unsure about South and West.  

 

Finally, if you are so appalled that someone of my skill level would not have a better understanding of the effects of sun exposure then why would you be opposed to me trying to educate myself on the matter?    

post #19 of 21
apologies for coming off so tersely. Half was my poor reading/ skimming skills that confused your post with another. it wasn't my intend, but when re--reading my reply, it just wasn't, well written. But be clear, several of us including myself offered our thoughts on the matter. I wasn't offended at all. I teach in a program that deals with choosing the 'right' slope aspect and angle for a given day, so your question makes a lot of sense. I think what you might have been asking is, what aspects hold snow the longest rather than the more micro, which aspect is best on a given day. I'm also guessing this has some connection to your thread on JH vs Targee.... hope that was yours at least.smile.gif
post #20 of 21

Think you are selling Big Sky short, Michael.  I hate driving by perfectly good ski areas to get to another one hours away.  Forget the season pass until you ski them all.

 

Try looking in the review section of each resort too.  I've got a review in several resorts you are thinking about.

 

markojp - nice back pedal.  But the O.P backpedaled off the expert, 20' cliff hucker stance too.

post #21 of 21

In both this thread and the JH vs.Targhee thread, I perceive an element of "I've got choose now or else I'll miss out" type of thinking. 

 

Here's what I recommend, Michael:

  1. Relax. 
  2. Pick one. 
  3. Enjoy.
  4. Pick somewhere else next year.
  5. Repeat process as needed.

 

Chances are, you will have an awesome year wherever you go.  If you don't get regular overnight dumps with bluebird days on a regular basis, well, cheer up dude.  You get to read other posts here and live vicariously through others' epic days.  You're a skier. Life is good. 

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