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weird snow...

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
fell on us at heavenly. like styrofoam pellets, very bizarre stuff to my unknowing eyes.

that is all.
post #2 of 13
A layer of that stuff with more snow on top is great for creating avalanch conditions. An inch of it on top a groomed run makes for easy, silky smooth skiing...fun stuff. Last time I encountered it was the day I was at Lost Trail picking up your T-Shirt. I'm surprised you haven't encountered it before.

[ March 03, 2003, 03:27 PM: Message edited by: Rio ]
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
i are but a skiin' neophyte. i HAD heard rumors of such stuff. and yeah, fun to ski on/in.
post #4 of 13
ryan, we get that snow pretty often in Western MT. they look like little puffballs and weigh about the same. as rio said, that snow is PRIME making for avalanches, because it's not planar and VERY prone to sliding.

usually we get it when it's been cold enough to snow, then warmed up, then gotten cold again.

usually it's pretty dry snow and fairly "squeaky" when you walk on it.
post #5 of 13

I assume you know that stuff is called "graupel", but some folks on the board might not.

I believe, but don't know for sure, that it's somewhat related to hail. I think graupel typically is the result of a great deal of lifting in the atmosphere. Precitiation starts to fall, gets sucked back up, starts to fall again, etc. During that process, more and more moisture attaches to the crystal until you get fairly large, rounded droplets. What's so strange is that it's so lightweight for its size.

One interesting thing from an avalanche standpoint is that graupel can really set up time bombs in the snowpack. Because graupel is pretty much like little ball bearings, as the pellets fall on steeper slopes they typically just "roll" right down the hill. They then reach lower angle spots and pool in big deposits in areas that *normally* wouldn't be considered starting zones for big avalanches. As regular crystalline snowflakes fall on top of those pools, all visible evidence of that stuff disappears. That can make for a very dangerous situation because it can be completely unpredictable.

Where I usually see graupel is right at the front edge of a storm that comes in fairly warm. It will often fall quite heavily, but usually for only a relatively short time. Then as the air cools, the snow changes to the more traditional crystals.

Y'all are right about it being fun to ski. It even makes a cool little "hissing" sound when you go through it.

post #6 of 13
I found this:
Late last season, I was skiing near my home in Taos when a thunderstorm blew in, depositing two inches of a snow that came down like tiny Styrofoam pellets, yet skied like (Jolly) Green Giant cream-corn. Dreamy. Have you ever skied this stuff, and does it have a name?
-Katie Cox, via the Internet

You are not far off the mark with your cream-corn analogy, because that dreamy stuff is called graupel, which means "little grain" in German. And while I've skied it, I've never experienced the quantity you lucked into last year. Usually it falls for just a few minutes at a time, rarely doing more than bouncing across the hardpack in shallow, swirling drifts. Graupel-it's also known as soft hail-is formed when teensy-weensy (sub-50-micron) supercooled droplets of water in the atmosphere adhere to ice crystals. Remarkably, the droplets have so much surface tension they remain liquid at temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius. When they hit the ice crystals, though, that tension is disrupted enough for the droplets to freeze instantly and form amorphous pellets a few millimeters across and 20 percent as dense as solid ice. Look for the stuff during winter thunderstorms (though that's not an absolute precondition), and get ready to ski some grau.
post #7 of 13
There's styrofoam out there! :

One of my coworkers just got back yesterday from a weeklong trip to the Reno/Tahoe area. He said Heavenly was Heavenly, and that it was his best ever ski trip.

I'm jonesin.
post #8 of 13
Cream corn comes out whole kernal. In fact, just skiing it may result in corn. Or even peanuts.
post #9 of 13
I experienced some weird conditions here too. The spring thaw has begun, with only a couple more days of snowmaking expected this year. The snow that's down it like pellets of ice. It skis about like mashed potatoes, but it's really fast if you ski it aggressively.
post #10 of 13
i'm jonesin worse than you Bonni.

heavenly, has this great base now with the storms that just finished hammering tahoe and i was supposed to be there this week; but had to cancel the trip because my job blows big monkey chunks. :
anyone in need of a web developer and co-worker that will take up 1/2 your workday just talking about skiing ?
post #11 of 13
Graupel makes a wondreful skiing surface, especially when it fills in the spaces between moguls. One of my best skiing days ever was chasing my brother down Alta's High Rustler, doing multiple laps, in 9" of fresh graupel. You could just launch yourself off the bumps, and all of the landings were soft and creamy.

However, it sends the avalanche control people into high alert, because it creates an unstable snow layer. It is like having a layer of ball bearings within the snow pack. It becomes a question of time whether it will break loose.
post #12 of 13
As a kid, I hated that stuff, especially when it was blowing right into my cheeks.
It was like thousands of needles hitting your skin!
And it had the property to find, always, an unprotected spot!
post #13 of 13
we get that stuff all the time in michigan at least this year we did...yeah its weird lookin'
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