Skiing the right Aspect
on March 2, 2011
When I first moved out to Utah I just assumed that snow quality would never be an issue because Utah resorts are so much higher in elevation then what I was used to back east. The fact of the matter remains, that even higher elevation resorts snow will get effected by the sun come spring time. You may have even noticed it starting to happen already this year. As the days grow longer the sun has a longer opportunity to "bake" certain aspects of the mountain during the warmest hours of the day. Then when night falls these baked surfaces refreeze and you are left with a very crusty layer on top of your snow pack, which can be very difficulty to ski. I can't tell you how many times I'll run into people on the chairlifts that are surprised to tell me that they skied this wide open bowl, chute or trail with not a track in it and the snow was really crusty. If they were dissatisfied with their experience that's usually when I start asking questions like these.
"Was the aspect south facing?"
"Had it gotten really warm a day or two before"?
"Did you ski this bowl early in the day?"
Most vacationers don't have the answers to these questions but now maybe after reading this blog skiing the right aspect will become a bit easier. So here are a couple tricks and pointers I've picked up over the past 5 years.
1. You almost always want to avoid south facing slopes during the morning hours, especially if temperatures have been getting above freezing during the day and the sun was shining bright the day before. If temperatures are warming up above freezing that day then by afternoon these slopes should be fine to ski. Although if it's really cold out and temperatures are way below freezing you might want to avoid these aspects all together that day.
2. Always be a few hours behind the sun. Simply follow the sun around the mountain and allow the sun to soften the snow, then ski the terrain. This way the sun has some time to break down those crusty slopes and turn them into creamy cruisers.
3. If you're looking for powder or packed powder try and find northerly facing sheltered slopes. These are the slopes that get the least amount of sun, therefore their snow is usually the closest to midwinter conditions as opposed to spring conditions.
One last tip, last year on Park City Mountain Resorts blog page they did a great job of showing their skiers and riders how to ski their mountain during the Spring. Check out their blog post and pictures for some useful spring skiing and riding tips.