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Best snow?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Where in your opinion has the best quality powder? Not talking about annual snowfall but in terms of the consistency, lightness, dryness, etc. A lot of resorts have stupid marketing gimmicks like "Steamboat's famous champagne powder", which in my opinion wasn't that great.

I've heard that the best, driest snow is in Alaska followed by Utah, based on the dry winds that come through and take moisture out making a totally light, weightless powder almost like ash, that you glide through effortlessly. Not sure about south america, never been there.
post #2 of 23

 

The modern skis make it so easy that I don't give a hoot about quality.  Any powder is good.  Quantity over quality any day.

Thay said, you must have hit Steamboat on a bad day.

post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
it just seemed heavy/sticky/grabby. maybe too early in the season? it was december. I love the stuff that just flies off your tips making that whooooosh sound :)
post #4 of 23
Watch some clips from Japan, it's just surreal.
post #5 of 23
I have yet to visit Utah when there's been good snow. If you've visited Steamboat this year, know that this year has been horrible for No. CO. Face it, if you have to visit somewhere to ski, the chances that you get there at optimum conditions are a complete crapshoot. It's better to focus on what you can control-your attitude, your companions, your technique, your accomodations...
post #6 of 23
Best quality powder?   OK, you're kidding right?   It could be lots of places given the right weather conditions.  If temps stay below 22 degrees during, and after a dump, it's going to be good.   Next day could change it all. 

Actually I heard that Mt. Bachelor has a agreement with God to give the best ONLY to them!  
If you believe that, I have a ski resort to sell you!
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
crys2.jpgI think there's more to it than that. I read a few reports about specific climate conditions in Alaska, where first a wet/moist dump of snow comes in, then dry winds from the polar region come back and dry the snow out. Supposedly because of the initial moisture the snow sticks to faces that it would normally fall off of, and then the dry wind makes the snow lighter and better, so they have much drier snow on steeper faces than you'd expect.

Then there's the whole lake effect snow near the great lakes, stationary mountain roll clouds that cause snowflakes to move up and down through the cloud more times before falling (creating much larger size snowflake crystals), etc. Just curious what people's experiences were.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques View Post

Best quality powder?   OK, you're kidding right?   It could be lots of places given the right weather conditions.  If temps stay below 22 degrees during, and after a dump, it's going to be good.   Next day could change it all. 

Actually I heard that Mt. Bachelor has a agreement with God to give the best ONLY to them!  
If you believe that, I have a ski resort to sell you!
post #8 of 23

Your powder experience may vary.

I spent two weeks in Steamboat one trip. Some of their champagne powder simply evaporated when you skied through it (<3% moisture content). The best part of Steamboat's snow was that it mostly fell overnight and was bluebird the next day.
 

AltaBird gets tons of nice powder that in my experience has been slightly wetter than the average Steamboat dump. Wolf Creek should also be considered in this category. Coastal areas in Alaska will get wet snow from the marine layers. For the dry stuff, you're pretty much going to need a heli. There are at least a dozen resorts in interior BC/Alberta that could compete for space on this list (e.g. Kicking Horse/Fernie/Lake Louise/Sunshine)

When I was at Portillo, Chile the freshies we got were normal, but the "hardpack" was so dry it was like chalk. It was weird skidding on hard snow and scraping up a fine mist of powder snow. On the drive up, the surrounding country was high desert - extremely dry.

I've been in neck deep snow in Val D'Isere. I don't know about their consistency, but at that point who really cares?

On my first trip to Sun Valley, only one man made ribbon of death was open even though it was late Dec. It was pretty disappointing. On my second trip, we had 14 inches of fresh each day for 3 days in a row. It was priceless. Even the most consistent resort gets a variety of weather. The message here is that you probably need another trip to Steamboat.

post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info. I didn't really like steamboat in general as a resort, I did some cat skiing which was fun but the terrain was relatively flat, the town itself was overpriced and the resort skiing was all tracked out just because it's so populated. I generally don't like ridgeline resorts that don't have above-the-treeline peak. Not to mention it's an El Nino year (almost no snowfall in CO and surrounding) so colorado is gonna suck for the most part this year. Another place that I was really disappointed with was Megeve in the alps. In addition to being one of the most overpriced resorts I've ever seen - $160 for a crappy greasy lunch for 2 slopeside - The snow was just super sticky and nasty, i'd almost go over the handlebars when entering deep powder.

I'm going to Big Sky in a few days, I've been there maybe 15 or 20 times and the snow is always really dry and weightless, and almost zero people to track it out, def one of my favorite spots. I can pick up a bunch of it and it just brushes off my hand like it's ash. Bought some 2010 Obsethed that I'm picking up out there to hopefully make the most of it. I was planning to go heliski in Alaska in April, but torn about it, it's just soooo expensive. A 25,000 vertical foot punch card is around $1700, that's really only about 9 or 10 runs down the mountain. I know everyone says it's an experience you'll never forget.... but between the cost of airfare and the vertical feet that becomes a very expensive trip indeed. I guess I could try Alyeska (sp?) or some of the BC resorts you mentioned. I have never skid in canada, if it gets the same wind drying effect as Alaska maybe that's a serious option for April.

Speaking of coastal stuff, I've been avoiding Whistler because it's so close to the ocean and to sea level and I would imagine the snow there is super wet and sticky. Is it true?
post #10 of 23
I like that drawing of snow, but I don't think it is scientific, not based on the books I've read on the subject.

Temperature is not a determining factor, unless you add time to the equation, as in time it has set, time it has been subjected to wind and temperature shifts.
 
I have definitely seen fully shaped crystal flakes in 30 degree temps falling fresh.  on the other end, faceted snow can exist in the 30's if it has been subjected to the effects of wind and it's crystal shape has been truncated, smoothed, lacking arms.
post #11 of 23
What day of the week is it?  This makes huge difference, personally believe the best is on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Saturdays and Sundays are the worst snow.  The crowd skis out the snow faster on the weekend.  If you are skiing from a copter or cat the generalities change, then they can all be good. 

Alaska especially the Chugach range is really weird.  Elevation and temperature make all of the difference in the snow there even more than many other places.  Alyeska has a base elevation of about 250', and is about 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean; that will create some 'variable snow conditions'.  You can often have face shots up top and fresh slush at the bottom on the same run.  Would contend that coastal snow there like everywhere has a higher moisture content, so it will stick better to steeper faces (and can make for some massive slab avalanches too).  The other truth proved in AK is that size does matter, in the movies you see a couple of people ski son=mething the siz of a small state by themselves.

Generally, the farther you are from the coast the lower the annual moisture.  The closer to a desert the lower the humidity.  If you can mix those features together, very light snow can fall there regularly when God sends the storm tracks.  The Rocky Mt fit that mold, some places closer than others, and there is some legendary snow.  (So sorry that the Boat did not serve you what it often does)

Found from personal experience, after decades of costly research, that every ski region in western North America can get really crappy snow, or they get the stuff you hope to find in Haven.  Probably the very best powder though is the stuff I will ski next wherever that may be.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques View Post

Best quality powder?   OK, you're kidding right?   It could be lots of places given the right weather conditions.  If temps stay below 22 degrees during, and after a dump, it's going to be good.   Next day could change it all. 

Actually I heard that Mt. Bachelor has a agreement with God to give the best ONLY to them!  
If you believe that, I have a ski resort to sell you!

Best way to get it on Hood is when it's coming down. At least this year I have stopped counting on powder days. But I make sure to get it at night when it's falling.

Cascade Concrete just makes you stronger. When it's actually kinda blower I feel like a superstar.
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
 There are at least a dozen resorts in interior BC/Alberta that could compete for space on this list (e.g. Kicking Horse/Fernie/Lake Louise/Sunshine)

Snow in the Alberta rockies is dry, but wind can be a bit of an issue. A powder day at lake louise is fatastic, but they don't come around that often. Sunshine is a bit better, but the best bet for powder in Alberta is Castle Mountain. 
post #14 of 23
Certainly low moisture content powder is the most fun to ski.  So in North America it is UT, CO and the interior Canadian Rockies.

That being said, the places you find the low moisture stuff often have the sketchiest snowpack.  I'm not talking amount but rather stability. For people who only make laps in the resort that's not a big issue but if you're going to hike/sled/cat/or heli for your turns that matters a lot.

Just sayin...
post #15 of 23
I like my powder to have a bit of moisture in it.

Ya, the powder in Utah is certainly something to experience but, I have had powder days at Maine mountains that were off the charts good.!!

Light powder gives a slipping sensation that is almost annoying to me. Feels like my ski's need a tune-up.

Now, everyone, all at once.....ream me a new one.

(we've had this discussion here before and bushwacker got my point)
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by sosumi View Post


Speaking of coastal stuff, I've been avoiding Whistler because it's so close to the ocean and to sea level and I would imagine the snow there is super wet and sticky. Is it true?
 

On my first trip to Whistler, it was raining on bare ground at the base. Now that is really wet snow! With only the top half of the mountain open there was still a 1/2 mile of vertical to ski. It was puking at the top and it was not cement. The beauty of Whistler is that you can usually find decent conditions somewhere between all the choices of elevations and aspects. I've been there when one chute was solid ice and the next one over had 10 inches of untracked. Lots of times, the colder air up top keeps the snow drier.
post #17 of 23
Powder quality: It's so transitory, illusive, fragile, ephemeral.  and it's all good. but ya' gotta' be there when it's happening.

given that, get some, often.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by sosumi View Post

it just seemed heavy/sticky/grabby. maybe too early in the season? it was december. I love the stuff that just flies off your tips making that whooooosh sound :)
 

Yeah, that was definitely just a bad day. It happens to the best of 'em. All season, we've been having really heavy snow at Snowbasin (at least on the lower part of the mountain). It's just been too warm this winter. I spent two seasons in Steamboat, and the Champagne Powder isn't just a gimmick.

Overall, I prefer Utah over anything. I'd say the quality is about the same as the 'Boat, but there's just a lot more of it. Open, untracked lines are also a lot more plentiful, and it takes longer for the pow to get tracked out.

I have heard good things about AK too, but haven't gotten there. They get a ton of pow, so if it's dry, it should definitely top the list.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecimmortal View Post




Best way to get it on Hood is when it's coming down. At least this year I have stopped counting on powder days. But I make sure to get it at night when it's falling.

Cascade Concrete just makes you stronger. When it's actually kinda blower I feel like a superstar.
 

Yes.  One day I skied there, and 18 inches came down pretty dry.  The very next day it was raining!   A little close to the ocean, but you do get massive dumps there!
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

Powder quality: It's so transitory, illusive, fragile, ephemeral.  and it's all good. but ya' gotta' be there when it's happening.

given that, get some, often.

Now that's the truth!
post #21 of 23
Here is a site with a good exploration of the issue of snowflake formation:

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/primer/primer.htm

The links on the left also documents their experiments with synthetic snowflakes, along with beautiful pictures of snowflake morphology.

It is by a physicist and chair of the Caltech physics dept, Kenneth Libbrecht:

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/

morphologydiagram.jpg

"The Physics of Crystal Growth and Pattern Formation in Ice.  This project is essentially a case study of the growth of ice crystals from the vapor phase, the purpose of which is to better understanding pattern formation in nonlinear nonequilibrim systems.  The diverse morphologies seen in snow crystals are largely due to the bizarre temperature dependence of ice crystal growth rates, a phenomenon that was discovered 75 years ago and remains unexplained to this day.  We have been making precise measurements of the growth rates of the different facets of ice crystals under controlled conditions to gain insights into the temperature dependent molecular structure of the ice surface and how it affects crystal growth."
post #22 of 23
I've seen articles with all the pictures like above.  What's even more complicated is the snow can change as it falls through different layers of atmosphere with different temps.  I've seen pics of the columns with a plate on either end.  It looks kinda like an empty spool.
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by learn2turn View Post

I've seen articles with all the pictures like above.  What's even more complicated is the snow can change as it falls through different layers of atmosphere with different temps.  I've seen pics of the columns with a plate on either end.  It looks kinda like an empty spool.

Like these?

w031223d046.jpg

There's more excellent weirdness in the Photo Galleries at Dr. Libbrecht's site.

Also, scroll down to Capped Columns and Double Plates near the middle of this page:

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/class/class.htm
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