Not all snow is equal

As the valley lies under a blanket of snow, we thought it might be interesting to look at some of the types of snow and what they mean for skiing and snowboarding conditions. Here are some snow conditions you may have heard of (or dreamed of/dreaded) on the slopes. All the situations require some adjustment to technique, some conditions are more suited to beginners while others are really only for the more advanced skier/boarder. However, the more you understand about the snow you are riding on the more fun there is to be had.


Powder snow/Champagne Powder, that magical word and the perfect conditions most of us dream of. The sight of a deep fresh coating of the white stuff on an untouched mountainside just ready to have tracks carved through it is a wonder to behold. It’s soft, light and dry and will (mostly) cushion any falls. You will need to adapt and make changes to your on-piste technique to fully enjoy the pleasures of off-piste skiing/boarding (and already be a good intermediate to advanced skier/boarder) plus a bit of speed is essential otherwise you will sink in deep but if you keep the momentum up the sensation will be out of this world. Whether in resort on ungroomed slopes or while ski touring powder is simply the best snow for many skiers/boarders. Epic powder days are fondly talked about long after that warm winter fire has gone out!


Crud/Bumpy/Choppy These terms cover a whole variety of conditions. Essentially it is powder snow or on-piste snow that has been skied throughout the day. The snow gets packed and shaped, moguls (big lumps of snow) appear, there are ridges, uneven surfaces and slippery patches. You will need to make sure you have the skills to enjoy it as it can be fun. It is essential to keep focused on where you are going to be ready for the challenges that will pop up as you descend the mountain.

Transitional As the day gets warmer and the snow gets more “worked” and typically in the spring the snow can turn into something akin to porridge or soup. Heavy and sticky potentially turning into…

Slush The scourge of spring skiing/boarding but as with transitional conditions good carving can make this manageable.

Ice The “ice” that occurs on the slopes is snow that has been melted and frozen many times, forming icy compacted snow. Ice is hated by all skiers and snowboarders and invokes trepidation in beginners. It can be hard and unforgiving. However, practice and a sharp edge will help and it is rare to find an entire slope covered in ice but it is good to know how to handle it when it crops up.


Crust A crust forms as a result of the sun and wind melting the top layer of powder and then the cold air makes it freeze again. A soft crust can be broken but if it is hard this will be a challenge. A crust is mostly an off-piste experience but can occur if conditions change after the slopes have been groomed especially if there is a wind. Normally conditions will not cover the entire mountainside and will be passed through during the descent into another form of snow.


Corduroy For some on-piste skiers/boarders getting that first lift and carving some turns down a freshly groomed “corduroy” slope is heaven. The quality of the corduroy is dependent on the skills and ability of the “piste bashers”. Many factors affect the quality of the “groom” including variables such as temperature, type and depth of snow, terrain and weather conditions. The team that grooms the piste work overnight to ensure that when you arrive at the slopes the conditions are as perfect as they can be.


These are just a few of the snow conditions you can expect to experience and often more than one will occur during a descent/day. However, with practice and expert tuition all these conditions can be conquered and lead to a fantastic day on the snow. The Ancienne Poste Avajan is a perfect place to learn or improve your skiing/boarding skills, with over 20 years’ experience and an ESF trained instructor James, your host, can help you to take your skiing/boarding to a new level.