Surface conditions. Not always what you’d expect and always changing. If there’s one thing I needed a crash course on this season it’s the number of variables that go into surface conditions. Really, how many ways can the snow be skied? North Carolina changes between maybe 4 different conditions and I can tell you none of them are powder. Here in the valley the number is a little bit higher, given the diversity in climate. Even the slightest change in weather can change your surface.
Common conditions tend to be machine groomed, packed powder, or loose granular. Typically, during your main winter months, mornings will be freshly groomed and change as the day goes on. Whether the temps get warmer or we kick up the snow ourselves, the end of the day tends to get softer. With that comes the potential for slick spots where enough of the top layer of snow has been skied off to create a smooth patch. It’s best to always keep an eye out for those spots, especially us snowboarders, the whole one edge thing doesn’t really help. Another common condition(depending on the type of winter you’re having) would be the beloved powder days. Of course down south anytime we got over an inch it was a powder day, but things are a little different in Vermont. I’d say anything above 4” is a solid powder day and anything over 6” is a “call in sick from work” day. I’ve had plenty of powder days out west so learning to ride in the powder wasn’t new to me. I knew to put my weight on my back leg and keep that tip up, so I don’t scorpion head over heels. Lucky for anyone learning to ride deep powder, the landings are pretty soft.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, conditions can get unpredictable. With warmer temperatures comes trickier conditions. Things like hard pack, wet granular, thin coverage, and the dreaded 3 letter word for frozen water are some of the more universally disliked circumstances. If there is one thing I wish I had the ability to control as a snow reporter, it would be the snow. Now I’m certainly not saying these conditions aren’t fun, more like not preferred. Days like these you have to find the fun yourself. Personally, on wet days where you are skiing on gas-station slushy conditions, I’m heading straight for the park. A nice soft ground allows me to start to push new tricks with less of a chance of bruising myself, plus who doesn’t love shedding a few layers and skiing under a bluebird sky. Days where the ground is a little harder it’s fun to focus on form or learning to ride switch. Really work on perfecting your riding. Conditions can be teachable moments. The more you experience, the better skier or snowboarder you start to become.
These past few weeks have seemingly felt like we’ve experienced every possible condition in the book. From powder to spring-like conditions, Mother Nature sent it all our way. So whatever you’re seeing on the mountain, remember to be a glass-half full type person and find the fun where you can. There’s always new things to explore at Sugarbush.