The snow has arrived !! – albeit a very small amount and unfortunately it looks like the snow will not stay for long as temperatures will increase again over the next few days. However, this early snowfall and seeing someone in full ski touring kit this morning walking down by Place Central (having been up the mountain) has motivated me to write a few lines about finding good snow conditions for off-piste or ski touring. (below photos are taken 23.10.17)
In Verbier on a typical ski tour you may find different types of snow, some of which are harder to ski than others. The easiest to ski is probably ‘spring snow’ which is frozen overnight and then the top couple of centimetres are softened by the sun, followed closely by powder snow on a hard base.
In your day you might also encounter hard snow which can be good to ski, unless it is also icy! The ice can be a real test of your balance.
Snow conditions which are trickier to ski include deep powder with no base (sublime but some people find this very difficult) and the hardest and nastiest is probably breakable crust. The priority here is to survive without falling or breaking through the crust (quite hard if you are heavy).
So, how do we find the snow which is easy to ski, versus the hard conditions which can be extremely challenging for some skiers? – This requires a little planning and experience, and is often why skiers use mountain guides. They are equipped with the knowledge and experience to make good predictions on snow conditions and which slopes will be ideal for their clients. This knowledge has been gained from years of observing how the snow transforms on different aspects as a result of among other things the daily changes in temperature and the wind.
(Les Esserts – 23.10.17..The snow has arrived – a little Powder!)
On a perfect day when it’s been snowing lots you have a good chance to find good powder conditions on all the slopes if the temperature stays cold. In Verbier many slopes get tracked out very quickly however, as a general rule the North facing slopes tend to keep the powder for longer periods whereas the sunny south facing slopes will start to transform over time. Melt freeze will occur on slopes that face East South and West and this is where you are likely to start to experience breakable crust… note this stuff is pretty nasty to ski!
In Verbier on a powder day the popular off-piste slopes seem to get tracked out extremely quickly and unfortunately to find the fresh tracks sometimes skiers or borders unknowingly venture onto more avalanche prone slopes and put themselves under an unnecessary risk. It is obviously great to be able to find some nice snow conditions, however the priority should always be safety and how to take the minimum risks to enjoy the best snow.
For tips on how to stay safe when off-piste, avoid the breakable crust or find the fresh powder please do contact one of our experienced off-piste qualified instructors who can help you to develop your skills and at the same time help you to understand the snow conditions and how to increase your chances of finding great snow conditions.
For more information please contact Altitude on: 0041 27 771 6006; firstname.lastname@example.org, altitude-verbier.com, www.freeride-verbier.com