Good skiing today - but required substantial effort

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 8” at mid this morning, with 9” up top, and ski patrol updated the gondola line with a 10” report just before 8am. There was some wind affected snow in most places, but not nearly as bad as I had feared. Any groomer skied bouncy and creamy, unless the pitch steepened enough to put you in contact with the frozen subsurface. Off-piste was a bit inconsistent as even the 13” I measured in Shadows was not enough to completely separate the skier from the surface on every turn. Some sequences of turns were smooth, deep, consistent and bottomless in the untracked but heavy and dry powder, but certainly not all.

Even though the temperature was 13F up top, the snow crystals were small and very heavily rimed, which means they were covered with enough frozen water to obscure their original shape. This is not surprising considering the very wet flow off the Pacific with a moisture tap back to the Hawaiian Islands. The end result was that the dry snow packed together fairly efficiently as it fell, creating snow to liquid water ratios that I’m guessing were around 10:1 or slightly less, which is heavy for us.

Untracked and heavily tracked areas skied the best as they were the most consistent. Lightly tracked was inconsistent as you would alternately accelerate when skiing though a track, and then decelerate when re-entering the untracked. There was not substantially more snow at the top of the hike on Morningside, but the run down North St. Pats was great since I was able to find mostly untracked snow alongside the cliff bands.

I had not planned on skiing until exhaustion, but the turns today required lots of energy in the heavy, but dry snow. I’m guessing they received about 4” of snow up there during the day, so I would expect the report tomorrow to be on the light side of my 8-16” forecast, and more likely closer to 6-12” It also currently appears the wave for Friday may be just far enough south to produce only light snow Friday night, so the original and optimistic 6-12” may have to be scaled back as well.

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