Mammoth Mountain’s Eastern Sierra location and high elevation creates unpredictable weather. In some cases, it means big snowstorms coming out of nowhere in the winter as well as the spring and even at the beginning of the season, but it also means that temperatures can rise or drop quickly. Your weather determines your snow, so the more types of weather the more types of snow you could end up riding on.
Since there are so many different types of snow at Mammoth Mountain, the ASO Mammoth team has created a mini glossary here for types of snow, their names, and what riding them is like. If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, check out our list of terms to get ready for winter!
Powder days are what skiers and snowboarders get out of bed for. In fact, people travel across the country and world chasing powder all year long because riding it is just that much fun.
Powder is the untouched snow left after a storm that drops roughly six inches or more. It’s beautiful, forgiving, and making deep cuts into untouched powder at high speeds is the stuff of dreams. While powder is the best type of snow, when it is deep it can be difficult to ride because your board and skis are so deep in the snow that you can’t turn or go forward. However, getting stuck in powder can be avoided with proper technique!
Hero snow has all the fun and forgiveness of powder, but a more solid base that allows you to ride through it easier. Basically, hero snow masks all of the flaws in your riding thanks to its depth and responsiveness. Even if you fall in hero snow the powder is soft enough to cushion most falls, making it ideal to push your skills and ride like your own hero.
Corduroy may not get the buzz of powder and hero snow, but you can do much worse than riding on corduroy. Corduroy is the soft, uniform snow left behind by groomers on a resort’s groomed runs. When untouched, the uniform ridges this snow gets its name from is reliable, smooth, and perfect for carving.
Not everyone is able to get to the mountain the day after a big storm, and if you’re one of those people then you may end up riding on packed powder.
Packed powder is powder after others on the mountain have carved out the best runs and left behind soft but uneven snow. Packed powder is one of the most common types of snow you’ll find on a mountain, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. You can still have plenty of fun on packed powder and the soft surface leaves plenty of snow for your edges to work with.
As the name suggests, spring snow is the wet, loose snow that results from higher temperatures. As the snow warms and loosens up it can form elusive corn, but if you hit it too late then you’ll get slushy spring snow. Spring snow is loose, forgiving, and will leave your clothes wet at the end of the day.
Corn snow occurs when snow gets knocked apart during the day, freezes into larger pieces overnight, and then loosens up as the next day warms it. Riding this freeze and thaw process at the right time is difficult, but if you hit the snow just as the it is beginning to thaw then you’ll get soft snow that is still dry and not yet slush.
Tracked out snow is simply heavily used snow. Snow has been tracked out if all the best lines have been heavily ridden and the snow is compacted unevenly, resulting in a bumpy ride that leaves your legs burning.