You’re planning your next snowboarding trip. You’ve waxed your board, checked your bindings, planned the stay at the ski resort, and packed your clothes and gear. But have you thought about the snow? We sometimes overlook the very thing upon which our successful snowboarding trip relies—snow!
There are different types of snow and they all impact your snowboarding adventure in different ways. Too little snow and you may end up injuring yourself or damaging your board. Too much snow and you may have trouble snowboarding like you usually do.
So, how much snow do you need to snowboard? Well, most snowboarders prefer at least 4-10 inches, and the minimum requirement of snow is around 20 inches (50cm) for a typical resort. But that answer isn’t so simple. Many resorts have different requirements and the different types of snow impact snowboarders in different ways. We’ll take a look at all of these factors so that by the end of reading, you’ll be able to answer the question, “how much snow do you need to snowboard?”
How to determine snowfall
Check the temperature
If the air temperature is below 37℉ (3℃) at ground level, you should get good snow fall. If it drops just a few degrees, that’s an even better sign that you’ll have good snowy conditions.
- With slightly warmer temperatures, there’s a risk of the snow melting or rain or sleet. This could result in icy and dangerous conditions.
Read the snow reports
You not only want adequate snow for your snowboarding trip, but you also want the perfect weather conditions. Too cold and windy and you’re miserable. Too warm, and you may end up with melted snow or hard ice patches.
- Base: This is the average amount of snow on the whole mountain. It will include a thicker base at the top of the mountain and a thinner base towards the bottom. The ski resort team will measure this constantly so it can change quite dramatically after a lot of snowfall.
- Cumulative: This number informs you of the total amount of snowfall during the ski season. Keep in mind that this is a total, meaning that fluctuation happens. While the cumulative snowfall may be 150 inches, it could melt away during the season.
- Fresh: This is the daily or hourly snow, what’s fallen recently. If you look at this number, think about current temperature conditions to determine how much snow is actually on the mountain.
- Hard Pack: As the name suggests, this is the snow that’s been packed down. Hardpack is generally awesome for snowboarding.
Think about what time of year it is
We all know that winter is the best time to take part in our favorite snow activities. But do you know when the best snowfall happens? In the United States and Canada, you can expect the most snow during January, followed by December, and then February.
Where are you snowboarding?
In some resorts, just 2-4 inches of snow is enough. If you’re snowboarding on grassy pastures, you can get away with just a few inches of snow. In rockier terrain, you’ll need much more. In some resorts, like Whistler in Canada, at least 15-20 inches is recommended. Consider the type of terrain you’ll be in before determining how much snowfall you’ll need.
What are the best snow conditions?
Snowboarders are in a wintery heaven when there is a fresh layer of light powdery snow on top of a deep, well-packed base. If the snow becomes too packed or icy, it’s challenging for snowboarders because it’s fast and more difficult to edge on.
Different types of snow
This is everyone’s favorite type of snow. Freshly fallen snow can make a day on the mountain more enjoyable for anyone—beginners and advanced boarders alike. Freshly fallen snow makes for a smoother ride and more cushioning.
Powder is another favorite for snowboarders and skiers. It occurs after heavy snowfall. It feels powdery and makes snowboarders feel like they’re floating over the snow.
Packed powder is powder that has been packed into a good snow base. It’s smooth and easy to snowboard on. This is probably the best type of snow for a beginner as it’s great for learning on.
Icy or hard-packed
Icy or hard-packed pistes (groomed trails) can be very hard and slippery. Snowboarders may find it difficult to plant an edge or make grippy turns. Snowboarders may go faster with ice or hard-packed snow and may feel like they’re unable to stay in control.
When temperatures are warmer, it’s more common to have slushy snow. Slush can be difficult for snowboarders, it’s heavy and slow and it can pull you in different directions. However, some beginners may like slush snow as it generally slows you down.
Crud snow is the worst kind of snow. It’s difficult to navigate and may mean boarding through alternating consistency. Crud snow requires a lot of concentration and if you’re not careful, it could cause a lot of falls.
Sticky snow is like slush as it happens when the snow begins to melt. It can reduce speed and make turning challenging. Be careful, or sticky snow can catch you off guard.
Problems with too little or too much snow
Too little snow can mean damage or injury. If you spot any gravel or rocks, try to avoid that area. Similarly, if you see an area of snow that’s darker or discolored, look out as the small stones and dirt could scratch your board. The biggest risk with snowboarding with too little snow is injury or damage. You could experience small scratches if you’re lucky, but big gashes that ruin your board are also possible.
Too much snow could also present issues. Heavy snow storms will likely result in the resort closing for a few hours as it could present whiteouts that endanger snowboarders. Heavy snowfall could also slow down snowboarders.
So, how much snow do you need to snowboard?
Well, now you know that this question isn’t a simple one to answer. Many snowboarders like when there’s at least 4-10 inches of fresh snow and a lot of resorts prefer when that number is closer to 20 inches. Adequate snow levels will depend on what type of terrain you’ll be snowboarding on and the different types of snow will influence your speed and performance. Fingers crossed for snow in the weather forecast!