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Ice on the Mountain

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Just curious, what is it that gives a mountain a reputation for ice. You have mountains like Whiteface and Cannon that are notorious for being extremely icy, yet other mountains nearby aren't plauged by the ice they get. It's not like a blanket of ice falls just on those mountains, so what is it that causes icy conditions. Is it snowboarders scraping off the top layer of snow, bad grooming, bad snow making? Do these mountains sometimes just take a bad rap because they have some icy trails, or is it because they poorly manage their snow?
post #2 of 21
I can't give a complete answer and haven't skied the East for many years, but I think that wind, sun exposure and temp variations play a big role in the formation of ice out West.  Typically, it doesn't "snow" ice.  Rather, new snow is converted to ice over time.  The length of time this takes can vary greatly depending on conditions.  Biggest factor is probably a thaw and refreeze.  This is more apt to happen on runs that get some sun exposure, but can happen on any runs if temps get warm and then cold enough.  Wind can also help things along by blowing away loose snow- this is one reason that Eldora has a reputation for hard snow here in CO.  
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yeah, but what I don't understand is why a mountain a few miles away has relatively the same temperature and directional exposure, yet it is icy and one near it isnt
post #4 of 21
 Sometimes there is groundwater that can come up and make real boilerplate.  The number of skiers and boarders riding on a slope.  Exposure and freeze thaw like the earlier poster said.  These are some of the factors.
post #5 of 21
 You don't have to have another mountain a few miles away to have a difference.  You can have a south facing slope at one resort the ices up much faster than a north facing one at the same resort.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yes, because the south face would get more sun exposure, but if you have two north facing mountains near each other why would one get ice and another one doesnt?
post #7 of 21
Yeah, but mainly it's because of the exposure.
post #8 of 21
Snow out East, at lower elevations, tends to be of the 'wet' variety. To understand what this really means, you have to understand how water vapor condenses and forms into snow flakes. The crsytaline structure of snowflakes can vary, depending on such factors as humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure, etc. In short, the physical structure of flakes produced at low altitude tends to be more conducive to forming ice than those depositied on surfaces at high altitude. Not always, the East certainly can get flakey powder snow,  but usually the temperature, pressure, and humidty have to be just right for this to happen. It is easier for 'wet' snow to freeze and form ice, especially when it gets packed.  It is also easier for 'wet' snow to form into ice crytals after freeze-thaw cycles. As stated, the exposure of Whiteface probably has a lot to do with why it's icey a lot. It probably undergoes a lot of rapid freeze-thaw cycles and has a lot of wet, heavy snow.
post #9 of 21
That would be called Micrometeorology. Climate differences in extreme enviorments can change in a matter of feet or miles depending on the ambient conditions. There are no absolutes in Weather.
post #10 of 21
Yes, but it is mainly affected by pressure, temperature, and humidty. On average, the atmospheric conditions present at low altitudes in the East is much more conducive to producing wet snow. The East also has large and warm bodies of water that produce lake-effect snow, which is almost always highly saturated. Your chances of encountering a lot of true 'ice' are much higher skiing in the East than the West. By Ice, I don't mean real hard snow that has been packed and sounds like ice when you are sliding over it. I mean 'real' ice -- the see-through variety.

Quote:
Originally Posted by slider View Post

That would be called Micrometeorology. Climate differences in extreme enviorments can change in a matter of feet or miles depending on the ambient conditions. There are no absolutes in Weather.
post #11 of 21
Yes, it's mainly affected by pressure, temperature and humidity but also also mainly it's because of the exposure. [/Germaine voice]
post #12 of 21
No arguments there Mojo. And Will is also correct. It is a combination of many factors that contribute to any weather phenomena. Boilerplate variety.
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
 So how an individual mountain handles their snow making and grooming doesn't effect how icy the trails are?
post #14 of 21
Yes, it's mainly affected by the water content of manmade snow but also mainly it's because of pressure, temperature and humidity but also also mainly it's because of the exposure.
post #15 of 21
Snowmaking and grooming have a great deal to do with how icy any individual mountain can get. In the east, it's actually a primary factor. The quality of the snowmaking system, power of the water pumps, power of the compressors, the types of guns they are using, and the skill and knowledge of of the snowmaking staff can have a significant effect on the water content of the manmade snow. An older system with underpowered compressors, old inefficient ground guns, and a crew that stretches the system too far will contribute to a much higher moisture content in the manmade snow. A modern system with good compressors, efficient tower guns, and a skilled staff that knows how to manage the water and air systems will create a much better snow quality, with a lower moisture content and therefore more resistant to forming into ice. After that, the grooming quality has a lot to do with how icy a snowpack will get later in the day. I'm not as familiar with the black art of grooming, but from talking with groomers, it takes a lot of skill and good equipment to create a well groomed top layer that will resist icing up. The other meteorlogical factors discussed of course play big roles, but don't underestimate the human factor as well.
post #16 of 21
One of the reasons Iceface is so icy is because of it's exposure like many other people have said.  The wind blows around all of the snow on top and reveals the ice underneath.  Some of the Whiteface trails that aren't exposed are fine while others aren't.
post #17 of 21
 I just heard that the new guns The King bought can make snow at 40.  That seems wet to me.
post #18 of 21
Higher traffic and less fresh snow are the biggest factors I see making for a typical hard pack ski surface.  Out East and in the Midwest the same natural snow and lots if very fine thin crystal-ed man made snow gets a lot of traffic and gets packed down resulting in a very hard surface.  Add occasional rain and lots of people skidding and that's what we have.

Out West the terrain gets weekly dumps of BIG FAT fluffy snowflakes to counter the traffic packing it down all day every day.  Also, there's fewer trails that allow night skiing out West, thus resulting in less traffic where the East and Midwest trails get pounded 9am-10pm 7 days a week.

Just my opinion.
post #19 of 21
East Coast Ice
#1 Reason for ice in the East is wind
(somebody cut down too many trees)
#2  Rain followed by sub zero temps (watch for snow snakes)
#3  Heat wave followed by sub zero temps
#4 Ski area running out of money and trying to save fuel on groomer depth

No ski areas in the east face south and stay in business very long
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by catskills View Post

East Coast Ice
#1 Reason for ice in the East is wind
(somebody cut down too many trees)
 

East coast trails are typically narrower than their west coast counterparts. And wetter, heavier snow doesn't blow as much as powdery snow.
post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post




East coast trails are typically narrower than their west coast counterparts. And wetter, heavier snow doesn't blow as much as powdery snow.
 

Let me explain the Wind factor on ice. If you check out the new Whiteface web site its pretty cool.  It gradually goes up the mountain showing various heights of other ski areas like Killington, Vail and then stops at the top chair lift at Whitface 3430 feet.   A few yeras ago I skied Whiteface for one day after an 18 inch powder dump.   I got some first tracks runs with some ski patrollers before the mountain opened. When I got off the chair lift at the 3430 foot mark shown on their new website. I put my ski poles on and looked down the mountain and to my surprise I was looking at a 50 foot long section of solid blue ice with no snow.  Where did that 18 inches of new powder go?  Well obviously the wind had a better place to put it for that section of the mountain.  Now don't get me wrong.  Once I shot down the blue ice section it was pure heaven.  But, I couldn't help wonder what it was like on a bad day.  I am sure they normally do a good job of making snow on that section of the trail and grooming it up on non-powder days. 
Edited by catskills - 10/31/09 at 5:59am
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