What Really Makes Perfect Powder?
A perfect powder day typically involves good friends, short lift lines, and of course, skiing deep powder snow. We all dream about those days when the snow is blowing overhead and every turn is better than the last.
The team here at OpenSnow refers to this type of light and fluffy snow as "Max Fluff." It’s a non-technical term that we coined for snow that has a snow-to-liquid ratio of around 20-to-1. But what exactly does this mean and how do I find perfect powder?
Snow Liquid Ratio
One of the most common ways to determine the quality of snow, when thinking about powder skiing, is through the snow-to-liquid ratio. The ratio is determined by comparing the depth of new snow to how much water you'd measure if the snow was melted.
If you took 12 inches of new snow, melted it down, and it gave you 1 inch of water, this would be a snow-to-liquid ratio of 12-to-1.
12 inches of snow to 1 inch of water (12-to-1) is common for most mountain locations during the winter and you'll likely find that the snowflakes are packed more closely together.
This ratio will still provide good snow for skiing, but when you're looking for "Max Fluff", it's all about a higher snow-to-liquid ratio and snowflakes that pile up with more space between them.
Temperature + Wind = Snow Liquid Ratio
The two primary factors that determine the snow-to-liquid ratio are temperature and wind.
Ideal temperatures for light and fluffy snow tend to fall between 0°F and 10°F near or above the summit of the mountain. Temperatures colder than 0°F will lead to small accumulations and the feeling of slower, denser snow, and temperatures warmer than 10°F will often (not always) lead to snow that contains more moisture and this will not result in "Max Fluff".
Along with cold temperatures, we are looking for winds slower than about 15 miles per hour near the summit of the mountain. Winds stronger than 15 miles per hour will tend to pick up the snow and pack it more closely together as it blows around during and after it falls.
Finding Max Fluff
The next time you're searching for that perfect powder day, check the three-day hourly forecast on OpenSnow for light winds (<15 mph) and cold temperatures (0°F-10°F) near the summit.
Storms with snow-to-liquid ratios of 20-to-1 are rare, but if you're patient and keep a close eye on the forecast throughout the season, you might just score yourself a fresh serving of "Max Fluff" powder skiing.
Download the OpenSnow app and stay tuned to our forecasts for the latest weather updates.