How Long Does a Powder Day Last in the East?

joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
in NELSAP Forum Posts: 1,664
Two criteria are really needed IMO to make a great powder day:
1. At least 5" of snow that is relatively dry
2. Low enough windspeeds that one is not going from crust to drifts

Yesterday (1/18/2017) we (Crotched Mtn.) had a 7" to 9" without wind.  The major runs were reduced to chopped by 10AM.  I've experienced simiar at WV and Jay Peak.

(Naturally, if your area has glades, that extends the powder through most of the day, but there is a large segment of the skier community who avoid glades because of the risk of damage to skis.}

But IMO, a New England powder day last about one hour.  Your thoughts?
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Comments

  • DrJeffDrJeff advanced
    Posts: 267
    Mid week or weekend powder day?

    Speaking from my Mount Snow perspective - on a midweek day you can get decent, mainly untracked (certainly not fully chopped up) runs on some trails (not glades) for a good 3 to 4 hours (and sometimes all day if you don't mind skiing around the sides of some the the terrain park features) when the vast majority of the mountain is open

    A weekend powder day at Mount Snow is an entirely different animal - maybe an hour tops before the majority of the trails are chopped up and won't yield more than a turn or 2 of untracked snow
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664
    On powder days, it's my experience that weekdays/weekends makes no difference.  Atl the examples I cited in my opening post were weekdays.  Powder hounds make it a priority even on weekdays!  I am surprised to hear that it lasts so long at Mt. Snow.
  • Posts: 1,862
    It depends on the weather, the snow, and the crowds. It could last a few hours on a busy weekend, but it could last a couple days with the right weather and low crowds.
    - Sam
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664

    It depends on the weather, the snow, and the crowds. It could last a few hours on a busy weekend, but it could last a couple days with the right weather and low crowds.

    I can only imagine that you didn't understand the subject.  I am talking about more than a few turns on untracked snow.  Not just skiing in the chop after someone else had first tracks.
  • Posts: 1,862

    It depends on the weather, the snow, and the crowds. It could last a few hours on a busy weekend, but it could last a couple days with the right weather and low crowds.

    I can only imagine that you didn't understand the subject.  I am talking about more than a few turns on untracked snow.  Not just skiing in the chop after someone else had first tracks.
    I understand what you meant. I still stand by my answer because of experiences I've had in the past. For example when I visted Abram a few weeks ago two days after a big storm there were still large untracked areas in glades and on some of the lesser used trails.
    - Sam
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664

    It depends on the weather, the snow, and the crowds. It could last a few hours on a busy weekend, but it could last a couple days with the right weather and low crowds.

    I can only imagine that you didn't understand the subject.  I am talking about more than a few turns on untracked snow.  Not just skiing in the chop after someone else had first tracks.
    I understand what you meant. I still stand by my answer because of experiences I've had in the past. For example when I visted Abram a few weeks ago two days after a big storm there were still large untracked areas in glades and on some of the lesser used trails.
    OK.  I'll be interested in hearing if others share your experience.
  • DrJeffDrJeff advanced
    Posts: 267

    On powder days, it's my experience that weekdays/weekends makes no difference.  Atl the examples I cited in my opening post were weekdays.  Powder hounds make it a priority even on weekdays!  I am surprised to hear that it lasts so long at Mt. Snow.

    Midweek, when you can spread the folks out over 450 or so acres, before you even talk tree acreage, it can last a while at Mount Snow.  Heck, a few of my friends were sending me pictures yesterday afternoon of some trails that still had what looked to be 20+ turns of untracked snow on them at 3PM
  • lotsoskiinglotsoskiing expert
    Posts: 625
    Found fresh at Northeast Slopes 3-4 days after a storm :)


  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664

    Found fresh at Northeast Slopes 3-4 days after a storm :)



    Right: They're only open weekends and they have about 1000 (my guess) skier visits per season!
  • lotsoskiinglotsoskiing expert
    Posts: 625

    Found fresh at Northeast Slopes 3-4 days after a storm :)



    Right: They're only open weekends and they have about 1000 (my guess) skier visits per season!
    Actually I skied there New Year's Day, and they had been open the whole holiday week before that.  
    Go figure :P
  • Bill29Bill29 advanced
    Posts: 225
    At some areas the groomers get out early, flatten the new stuff and groom it. Many in the paying public are not thrilled about skiing powder. 
  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 285
    Bill29 said:

    At some areas the groomers get out early, flatten the new stuff and groom it. Many in the paying public are not thrilled about skiing powder. 

    Thirlled to ride man-made, machine groomed. Wooo! Not.....
  • rickbolgerrickbolger expert
    Posts: 1,019
    I think it depends on the hill, and how much it's snowing.  Couple years ago had a group at Okemo and two guys skied powder on a Sunday morning until they were too tired to continue.  Other times I imagine it's gone in an hour.

    Black Mt NH I've skied "powder" all day long.  Middlebury it can last a while, days on some trails.

    Not sure we can make a hard and fast rule for this
  • mapnutmapnut expert
    Posts: 769
    I suppose if you're lucky enough to be at the mountain while the roads are bad, you could have the powder to yourself.
  • JimKJimK advanced
    Posts: 211

    In the mid-Atlantic most resorts groom out new snow before they open in the morning.  If the resort offers a bump run (not always guaranteed) it would be your best chance for first tracks in untouched powder.  And I would agree with Joshua that any ungroomed designated trails would quickly be cut up by the first 30 people to hit them.  Glades (with sufficient snow cover) are even rarer down here and the few ski areas offering those would be your best bet for multiple hours of fresh tracks.

    I was skiing in WV last January during a huge, multi-day storm.  First tracks on designated trails went real quick, but since the snow was kind of heavy the snow was also quite fun once it was cut up a bit.  Gladed areas refilled for fresh tracks for a couple days in the morning:

    http://www.epicski.com/t/145097/at-canaan-valley-wv-for-winter-storm-jonas-1-22-24-2016

     

  • ski_itski_it expert
    edited January 19 Posts: 1,589
    Untracked Powder? What is that of which you speak of?
    ISNE-I Skied New England | NESAP-the New England Ski Area Project | SOSA-Saving Our Ski Areas - Location SW of Boston MA
  • Posts: 1,862
    ski_it said:

    Untracked Powder? What is that of which you speak of?


    Sometimes you just have to work for it. ;)

    image
    - Sam
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  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664
    ski_it said:

    Untracked Powder? What is that of which you speak of?

    As a CM regular, you missed one yesterday!
  • jgrecojgreco intermediate
    Posts: 33
    Before the lifts were updated on Spruce Peak at Stowe around 2004, you could find fresh lines 2-3 days after a storm. Not individual turns, but long sections of trail. Maybe you'd have to figure eight someone else's track, but I still count it.
  • riverc0ilriverc0il advanced
    Posts: 244

    Two criteria are really needed IMO to make a great powder day:
    1. At least 5" of snow that is relatively dry
    2. Low enough windspeeds that one is not going from crust to drifts

    But IMO, a New England powder day last about one hour.  Your thoughts?
    My criteria for a powder day includes at least 6" of fresh snow and at least one mostly untracked run. I don't count hours for when a day is or is not a powder day, it starts binary regardless of how long it lasts.

    How long powder lasts entirely depends on how many skiers there are. Lots of factors are involved such as mid-week or weekend, holiday or not, time of year (pre-Christmas and late season can be AMAZING due to fewer skiers despite good conditions), how long since the last powder day (powder drought brings out insane demand), and aggressiveness/type of skier (i.e. more powder hounds = faster tracks). Also which mountain has a huge impact as well. The more off map tree skiing, the longer I can find fresh tracks. Mountains without glades are toast pretty quickly. Lift layout also has a strong impact on how long the powder lasts. If you can stay ahead of the crowds, you can keep getting "first chairs" at some areas. Wind holds also help for finding fresh tracks if you are willing to work. Etc etc etc....

    On a typical weekend at Jay, I can easily find fresh untracked for at least two hours minimum. Four hours on a slow day. I've had every run a face shot during unexpected surprised storms at a number of areas. But typically, I almost always get there for first tracks and leave by 1-2pm. Pretty rare I ski open to close even on a powder day... things are almost always completely tracked out and packed down by noontime, especially on a weekend. Even a lot of off map woods are being beat down by noontime. Every powder day is a different plan based on a number of factors but it is a special treat to still be skiing long untracked lines even in off map woods past noon time. 

    Regarding midweek vs weekend, it is true that powder hounds make it a priority midweek (I certainly save up vacation days for winter, that is for sure). But non-powder hounds don't make it a priority. There is always less volume during mid-week powder days unless we are suffering a significant drought and people are starved. A track by someone that can't ski powder and prefers groomers is still a track. Pretty rare mid-week powder day lines are as long as weekend powder day lines. A lot depends on how long the storm is forecasted for, though. The less hype and shorter notice, the better.

    I think there may be some definition variation and experience from different posters. For reference, powder to me means untracked, slightly tracked, or fairly well tracked. Chop and packed down is not powder, those conditions are chop and packed. An occasional turn or two on the edge of the trails is fun but left overs, not skiing powder.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664
    In 2011, I caught a 40+" storm at Jay Peak.  The Canadians descended en masse.  That non-holiday Monday (not including glades), I got one run. The second already included a significant amount of chop.
  • CannonballCannonball advanced
    Posts: 121
    I agree with what everyone is saying, in that the number of people skiing the powder is the primary defining factor in how long it lasts (obviously).  The key then is to figure out where the least amount of people will be tracking out the powder.  Obviously mid-week vs weekend is a big factor.  But a bigger factor is the community of skiers at any given mountain.  A place like Cannon is terrible for powder preservation. It doesn't matter if it's a random Tuesday with an unexpected storm. There will be a 200 people waiting in line before the Tram opens. The main trails will be tracked out in 1-2 hours, mapped glades in 2-3 hours, and sidecountry stashes by mid-day.  Conversely, Bretton Woods will have untracked lines within sight of the chair for several days after a snowfall.

    Zig when everyone else Zags.   
  • SkizixSkizix advanced
    Posts: 148
    A trick question perhaps? A day is 24 hours... (ba-da-bump}

    Agree that powder days getting fresh tracks is about one - two hours. Then you have to hunt around for the goods. I've seen Jiminy Peak get chopped up in two hours and less depending on how many hounds are there. I find it amazing how about 50 skiers can chop up a mountain so fast. I did get lucky with a powder day there this past December 17th on a Saturday, no less. 6" - 8" and very few people maybe because the roads were so bad. So few that I was getting fresh in Hot Wheels Glades around 11 in the morning. It was pretty special not having to ski-like-hell to get fresh tracks...
    "I need a powder day"
  • mapnutmapnut expert
    Posts: 769
    How much different is it at Mad River Glen on the trails served by the single chair?
  • Posts: 1,862
    When I skied Veteran's Memorial on a powder day I got first tracks on Ian's Trail an hour after opening. There were probably only 20 skiers total that day.
    - Sam
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664
    Consensus with the exception of a few very low trafficked ski areas:

    One to two hours.
    ---
    Aside to ski_it: day has a number of definitions,  including, of course, 24 hrs.  Many refer to day and night where the combination of the two is 24 hrs. (e.g. Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year).  Another definiton is a particular part of a 24-hour period (e.g. He works an 8 hour day.) Checking a dictionary will yield about a dozen others including its usage in this thread where a powder day, like a workday, can be many (or few) hours. The English language is complicated with many subtleties which makes it so ripe for puns.

  • JimKJimK advanced
    edited January 20 Posts: 211
    I am going to Utah tomorrow morning for a week of skiing.  LCC got a few inches yesterday, getting a few more tomorrow, but could wake up to 1-2 feet on Monday.  I'll report back on how fast things track out at Snowbird.  I stay down in the SLC suburbs, so getting up the access road amidst crowds and avi closures is a bigger worry than how fast the pow gets tracked up.  But from last year, I know it gets tracked up pretty fast there too, unless you know some really secret stashes beyond anything I've been shown.

    Reposting an anecdote from UT pow day last year:

    My first powder day of the trip (Saturday, Jan 30, 2016) at Snowbird, UT was a 20” day and I got my head handed to me on a platter.  There was loose snow in many places before the new snow fell, so it really skied like two feet of fresh.   My hard charging adult son moved to a location 25 minutes from Snowbird in Oct 2015 and promptly got a Snowbird season pass.  He took me on a bunch of black diamond runs between 9 and 1130AM on that first morning and wore me out!

    It should have been an awesome day, but within a couple hours I was leg weary and ready for an early lunch.  I have to admit I was totally humbled by challenging terrain, slightly heavy snow, low visibility, and a hill full of remarkably talented skiers and boarders blowing past me on all sides like I was standing still.  This was my first time experiencing an LCC powder day frenzy, and it was a Saturday to boot.  To their credit the hard chargers werecordial, just impatient to plunder the goods. 
    Good on ‘em.

    What happened to me? Where did my skills go?  We skied front side trails like Restaurant Roll, Sneaky Pete, Mach Schnell, and Hot Foot Gully.  These are black diamond slopes, but not the highest tier of difficulty at Snowbird.  I felt like I was fighting every inch of vertical down the hill; non-stop thigh burn even on the traverses and what little run-outs there are at Snowbird.

    After lunch my son left to ski with friends and I headed to lower angle terrain on lifts like Mid-Gad, Wilbere and with no small measure of humiliation…Baby Thunder.  I was able to keep myself entertained and find a little better comfort factor. Down near the base area there was better visibility and less swirling snow.  Many trails had been cut-up and packed to a degree making them easier to ski. 

    That night I felt pretty bummed out.  We had another day scheduled the following day and I wondered how it would go? 
    Fortunately, it went a lot better.  The snow was packed out to a degree and my son took it a little slower with me.  We skied a bunch of the same terrain and joined two of his friends.  They slowed their tempo down for me and I was inspired by their company.

    When you have a bad day, get some rest. Get back on the horse, remember what made you fall in love with the sport, believe in yourself, get back to the basics, and ski with friends for encouragement.  Lighten-up, what was once fun will be fun
    again.

  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,664
    To JimK: In UT, it's not the snow or your age that tired you out as much as acclimation to the altitude at Snowbird.  And I'm sure with Snowbird's massive acreage, a powder day lasts far longer there than it does in the east!
  • riverc0ilriverc0il advanced
    edited January 21 Posts: 244
    mapnut said:

    How much different is it at Mad River Glen on the trails served by the single chair?

    On trail, Mad River powder goes about the same as any other mountain. There may be fewer skiers on the trails due to limited uphill capacity... but the trails are narrower and fewer. Mad River has significantly less on map acres than comparable vertical areas. That said, the mountain has tree shots everywhere and a few take some effort to get to so that really helps.

    Another factor at Mad River Glen is the level of the skier. You are contending with the vast majority of skiers being powder hounds and knowing the mountain well. Mad River is actually a pretty good place to be on a powder day despite the crowds if you get there for first chair. You can usually get three good runs in before the line starts to back up and the pickings start thinning out. 

    Also, very few trails (as a percent of total on map trails) are exclusively served by the Single. You can get to as far right as Liftline from the Double. So the Single is exclusive on map only to Antelope (top to bottom), Catamount/Cat Bowl, Chute, Fall Line, Paradise, and the very top of Liftline. Everything else can be reached by the Double (I can't remember if you can cut into lower Beaver from the Double or not). 

    I am quite familiar with the mountain and can score some untracked through lunch time in the woods. But on the map trails and popular glades are toast within 1-2 hours just like any other mountain.
  • mapnutmapnut expert
    Posts: 769
    Thanks for the comprehensive answer!
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