The different types of snow can simply be described as the difference between different shapes of snowflakes, how they fall and how they settle on the ground. Checking the snow report will give some idea of what kind of snow is currently to be found in different parts of the mountain.

After the snow has fallen

Once snow has fallen on the ground it can be described as powdery whilst it is still light and fluffy, granular when it begins the thaw/freeze cycle and crud or ice after a longer period of melting and refreezing. Whilst snow is still powder it can be blown by the wind and can cause snow slabs to form, which can cause avalanches on steep slopes.

Types of snow and snowfall

There are different shapes of snowflakes, including dendrites, the star shaped flakes that most people associate with snow, graupel which refers to freezing fog that condenses around a snowflake and creates a ball of ice that falls as hail and sleet, which is snow mixed with rain.

Artificial snow

Artificial snow is formed by snow canons. These are deployed on some of the ski slopes and used to ensure a good covering of snow throughout the winter.


Champagne powder is dry fluffy snow that is perfect for skiing. The term was first used in the Rocky Mountains and the Steamboat Ski Resort holds the copyright for the term. Similarly powder refers to any fresh uncompacted snow.Chopped powder is powder that has been skied through a few times and is no longer smooth or fresh. If the snow partially melts it can form a crust over powder.


The snow on piste is packed down by piste bashers. It can turn to ice or, if the weather is warm enough, slush. This often occurs in the warmer days of spring. Slush is a lot slower to ski on and it is a good idea to use the appropriate wax on skis to ensure the best possible performance. Ice, on the other hand, is hard and fast and it is important to have sharp edges on ski to ensure grip and control.

Being prepared

It is a good idea to be aware of what kind of snow to expect when going skiing so that you are prepared for whatever conditions you might encounter during the day. In spring time morning ice can turn to slush by the early afternoon.