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Wet vs. Dry Snow Skiing? Differences? Similarities? What’s better?

Man skier on slope.

One of the most common sports during the winter months is skiing. It can either be a weekend hobby for family, friends, or something that you take a trip for, but skiing is highly sought after during the coldest of months.

When you start skiing, however, you will quickly learn the difference between ski styles, skiing in wet snow or in dry snow. These two styles have some big differences and some similarities. Before you take off on the slopes, however, you need to be aware of what you are facing.

What is Wet Snow Skiing?

Man skiing on wet snow.

Wet snow skiing refers to those who are partaking in the sport when the snow is wet. If the surrounding temperature is starting to freeze, but not quite there, this means that the snow has not turned to ice.

If it is still wet and turned to liquid when you walk on it, then it is still considered wet. When the snow is wet, you are able to play in it with more ease, since it still has a sticking texture and can be molded.

This also means that as you walk and travel through the snow, the impact of your weight will crush the snow beneath, making it quickly turn to water. It is important to know that it is incredibly heavier than dry snow in the area.

Once it has snowed more than a few inches, there are some serious dangers to consider. The weight from that heavy snow can be dangerous on lift lines and power lines that are in the area, causing them to break if they are full of snow. This can be dangerous to skiers and others who are out in the snowy environment.

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If you are planning to ski in wet snow, it is best that you are not a beginner at the sport and have an understanding of how to maneuver. Since the wet snow can fold and mold to the track, there will be a bit of a crust along the path from previous skiers when you head out.

It is more comfortable temperature-wise because it is not freezing, but the melting snow could generate an unexpected slush in areas. If you hit that slush when skiing, it could be dangerous for your health and others that are out.

What is Dry Snow Skiing?

Three skiers skiing dry snow.

Once that fresh snow has fallen and the temperature has dropped below freezing, it will start to solidify and become dry snow. The temperatures outside are always below freezing when the snow is dry because it is not warm enough for it to melt.

The snow will have collected air, making it less heavy than wet snow. It is easy to navigate when skiing, but it can still be dangerous because it is a large piece of ice.

Dry snow is often the base of many ski resorts and large hills that are used for skiing all the way to the spring. Even as the snow starts to melt, the dry snow below will take longer to melt and give a firm foundation for those who need to get their footing and head down the mountain.

If there is still dry snow in the area where you are skiing, this means that the temperature is still very chilly and cold, keeping the snow frozen in place until it starts to warm up more.

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If you are skiing on dry snow and you start to fall, you may notice that tumble will hurt, as it is not the same soft consistency as wet snow. Dry snow will often start to change throughout the day, especially if it warms up pandit starts to melt down.

How Are They Different?

Mother and daughter skiing on slope.

There are significant differences between wet skiing and dry skiing. All of these differences are related to the types of snow that you find when skiing and how to navigate them.

  • Texture Change
  • Temperature Change
  • Differences in course manipulation

When you start skiing, if you try to ski on both wet snow and dry snow, one of the first things you will notice is the texture of the snow. Dry snow has hardened in its current shape and it is not easily changed without environmental conditions changing.

This is also true for wet snow, which can change with a footprint. The temperature change in the two different types of skiing. If you are skiing in wet snow, then the temperature is normal and the environmental conditions make it more enjoyable to ski.

For dry snow skiing, the weather must have a significant chill and is often associating these conditions with a wind chill.

When you are skiing on dry snow, it is lighter and the course is easier to navigate. If you are just learning how to ski, then the dry snow is the right path for you to consider.

This allows you to understand the terrain, learn how to use your equipment, and gain some confidence before moving to warmer tracks that can be manipulated.

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With wet snow skiing, the crust changes and shifts along the track, making it a challenge for those who may not be familiar with skiing and navigating down the hill to the end. Wet snow has more of the ability to lost control and send you down a completely different path.

How Are They Similar?

Three skiers on slope.

No matter whether the snow is wet or dry, there are some similarities to keep in mind. First, paths are easy to distinguish in either type of snow. If you are skiing, you can easily see the trial that others took before you on the slope, and you can follow it to safety.

With both wet and dry snow, you should always expect the unexpected. No matter if the snow has hardened or is turning to slush, be prepared for the unexpected and brace yourself. If there is enough wet snow on the slope, then it can hide rocks and other obstacles that dry snow is notorious for shielding.

Both dry skiing and wet skiing have the ability to pack on layers, keeping those who are skiing inches from the ground and out of harm’s way. The weather will also be cold, no matter which type of snow is on the ground. The level of cold is the only difference when it comes to temperature.

Which is Better?

Woman skier enjoying on slope.

Depending on what your ski level is, either dry snow skiing or wet snow skiing could be beneficial. If you are just starting out, you may want to spend a few days with dry snow so that you can have a strong foundation to learn the sport and gain confidence.

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Once you have moved from a beginner level, slopes with wet snow or even powder dusting may be more ideal or offer that challenge that you are looking for. If the wet snow has started to slush up in places and blend with ice, however, you want to avoid that altogether.

No matter what type of condition you are skiing in, you should always be aware of what the temperature is, what the snow is doing on the ground, and what is expected in the days ahead.