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Stupid question about snow quality in the West

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I had this assumption that snow in the West remained powdery because it was cold enough to not thaw out and become ice. Today I randomly looked at some temperatures and it seems it's fairly common to have temperatures in the 30s. So does it ever get icy out there? Or does the snow somehow not melt? Or does it snow often enough to almost always have some powder?

 

And as a side question, why are lift tickets at Park City $107!? How many other places are that ridiculously expensive?

 

(I'm not planning anything, just curious)

post #2 of 12
The West runs from Canada to Mexico. So clearly there are lots of different climates. The biggest reasons for less ice are less snowmaking, higher altitudes, and less thaw/freeze cycles. In fact, most mountains don't have any rain events once the season starts until mid March or so. Higher altitudes in Colorado means that snow sublimates into the air sometimes without passing through a water stage. Frigid temps in more northerly areas suck water from the snow and dry it. Larger acreages spread crowds across the resort so less packing occurs outside of major choke points.

Park City charges it because they can. Lift tickets at Whitefish are only $69 at the window. Most places have discounts. Only those who don't do their homework pay window price.
post #3 of 12

We have ice! In fact that is about all we have right now and not much of that!

 

I have not skied yet, we are suffering!

post #4 of 12

I think I saw that Vail was $139 over Christmas.

post #5 of 12
We have 71 inches of snow. :-)
post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 

And as a side question, why are lift tickets at Park City $107!? How many other places are that ridiculously expensive?

 

1. Thankfully they're on a peppercorn rent or the cost would really be high;)

2. Lots. If you Pow and cheap, try Japan.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Atomicman View Post
 

We have ice! In fact that is about all we have right now and not much of that!

 

I have not skied yet, we are suffering!

Same on Mt. Hood....

 

I've skied once last Saturday and it was frozen granular ice, granular, and then slush before heading home before noon. Hood got blasted with a week or so of temps in the high 40's and not even freezing at night. Then it froze....


Edited by GorgeSkier - 1/4/14 at 10:31am
post #8 of 12

Wind can blow away top layer snow, plus people side skid down some steeper slopes can really cause problems in the Canadian Rockies too. I slipped once on boilerplate and ended up a about 200 feet down from where I slipped...I heard that several even got killed when slipped on exactly the same slope where I slipped...and no, you don't bring out 110+ planks more than a handful of days in a season unless you specifically hunt for powder.

post #9 of 12

1) Rain is the #1 cause of icy slopes.  The higher resorts in the Rockies see zero rain during the ski season.

2) Humidity in the air will transmit the 30+ degree temps into the snow more readily than dry air.  Western resorts that are far enough away from the Pacific are usually low humidity.  The East is essentially always humid by comparison.

3) Manmade snow does compact into hardpack more readily than natural snow.

4) Thin snowpacks are less refrigerated and break down more readily.  That's what we're seeing in the drought stricken West Coast areas now.

5)  Intense skier traffic on limited acreage also contributes to hardpack/boilerplate.  This is another result of the West Coast drought lasting through the holiday period.

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Atomicman View Post

We have ice! In fact that is about all we have right now and not much of that!

I have not skied yet, we are suffering!

If you haven't skied yet, how do you know what we have? I've skied a decent amount already and it ain't the best but I've had fun nonetheless. Buck up and enjoy.
post #11 of 12

I've skied on ice and through slush puddles at Snowmass and been rained on at Steamboat; most western resorts will get scoured, though maybe not genuinely icy when it hasn't snowed for a while (and there are always times when it doesn't snow). There are PLENTY of days when people wait for things to soften up. Western ski resorts may not have the same problems with snow quality and conditions that eastern resorts do, but poor conditions do happen--it is definitely not all powder days all the time out west. In fact you'll need to be lucky to get one.

post #12 of 12
Without the rain, it takes more warm and dry periods to wreck up the snow. Wolf Creek has gone 3 weeks with no real snow, but is still packed powder and friendly bumps.

With a week ski trip, you have a pretty decent chance of a pow day If you choose the right area. You don't need that much luck.
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