Snow Pack Terminology

Ever wonder what all those abbreviations are on the snow report? Here's a simplified guide to common snow conditions as reported by most Ski Areas. 

Average Base Depth
An average of the high and low amounts of snow over the entire ski area (or on a particular trail). Machine-made and natural snow amounts are combined.
Primary Surface Condition
The type of snow condition which covers at least 70% of the terrain that is open to skiers.
Cold, new, loose, fluffy, flaky and dry snow which has not been compacted and dreams are made of.
Packed Powder
Powder snow, either natural or machine-made, that has been packed down by skier traffic or grooming machines. The snow is no longer fluffy, but is not so extremely compacted that it is hard.
Machine Groomed Snow
Loose granular snow that has been repeatedly groomed by power tillers so that the texture is halfway between LSGR and PP. Some of the snow is granular and has been so pulverized that the crystals are like powdered sugar. It's neither LSGR or PP. This condition occurs only after a warm/freeze with multiple grooming passes.
Wet Snow
Powder or packed powder snow that has become moist due to a thaw or rainfall, or snow which was moist when it fell.
Wet Packed Snow
Natural or machine-made snow that has been previously packed and becomes wet usually because of rainfall.
Loose Granular
This surface results after powder or packed powder thaws, then refreezes and recrystallizes, or from an accumulation of sleet. This is also caused by machine grooming of frozen or icy snow.
Frozen Granular
This is undoubtedly the most misunderstood surface condition in ski reporting. It is defined as a hard surface of old snow formed by granules freezing together after rain or warm temperatures. Frozen granular will support a ski pole stuck into its surface while ice will chip away and not support a pole.
Wet Granular
Loose or frozen granular snow which becomes wet after rainfall or high temperature.
Not to be confused with frozen granular, ice is a hard, glazed surface created either by freezing rain, ground water seeping up into the snow and freezing or by the rapid freezing of snow saturated with water from rain or melting. Ice will chip away and not support a ski pole when stuck into it.
Variable Conditions
When no primary surface (70 percent) can be determined, variable conditions describe a range of surfaces that a skier may encounter. Parts of trails can be Loose Granular, partly Packed Powder, and parts Frozen Granular, for example.
Corn Snow
Usually found in the spring, Corn Snow is characterized by large, loose granules during the day, which freeze together at night, then warm up again and loosen during the day.
Spring Conditions
This is the spring version of Variable Conditions. It is used when no one surface can describe 70 percent or more of the open terrain.
Windblown Snow
Powder or granular snow which has been blown by wind into forming a base.

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