Spring is the perfect time to be on the slopes: the days are longer, the weather is nice and warm, the prices are better and the crowds are becoming scarce. However, Spring snow conditions can be a little harder to deal with, and having some specific strategies to manage these March/April conditions can really help you take full advantage of your season and ride until the very end!
Know about the snow
Warm Spring days usually melt the snow on the mountains, causing small, cold grains of snow to transform into larger crystals. Then, the clear and cold nights refreeze these big wet crystals which become slightly more angular (square, like a grain of corn). This is called the freezing cycle. As the melting-freezing cycle progresses, the snow grains becomes bigger. It can take several days of freezing/melting for the conditions with this type of snow to be ideal, but if you know what to expect, when is the best time to hit the slopes and how to tune your board for this big type of grainy snow you WILL enjoy the ride.
Know when to hit the slopes
As mentioned above, the morning following a Spring frosty night will provide hard, bitter snow, but don’t worry, it never lasts long. Frost-hardened snow takes much less time to melt during the day than to freeze overnight. For this reason, it’s important to know that the Spring snow, unlike the rest of the season, is less enjoyable if you go to the mountain early in the morning. Opt for a warm early afternoon so that the snow is soft again and you’ll be good to go! Late risers, this one’s for you!
The importance of tuning up for Spring
A good tune up for the Spring snowboarding takes two details into consiration: sharp edges for the harder snow in the beginning of the day and a special type of wax that will allow a good slide on the wet snow that will arrive later in the day. Up to now, pretty simple. Nothing unusual.
That’s when things get trickier. Let us briefly explain the principle of waxing. Basically, wax waterproofs the base of a board so that it slides on a small layer made of pearls of water, forming between the snow and the board. The basic structure of a board has of fine grooves cut into the base material that allow these tiny droplets to escape. If this water can not escape under your board, it won’t remain beaded, which will create a sucking effect and will decrease your speed.
This is what happens when you suddenly feel intermittently stopped when you ride between the shade and the sun in late Spring. The amount of water in the sunny area overloads the structure and wax of your board and prevents you from taking full advantage of the ride. For wet snow, it is essential to have a wax that’s warmer and softer.
Although the decision to use wax seems simple, there are complex scientific principles behind waxes and their interaction with the base of your board and snow. For new dry and cold conditions such as those in January and early February, harder waxes are used to prevent sharp snow crystals from sticking to the base of your board. If the snow crystals stick to the wax, the coefficient of friction increases, which reduces sliding ability.
When conditions are hot and humid, as we begin to feel now, the snow crystals melt and the six points are rounded. This condition is described as old or transformed snow. In these conditions, softer waxes are the best.
When applied properly, soft waxes produce a more uneven surface, which helps to break up the stickiness of the layer of water formed under the board and allows you to ride more fluidly and quickly in Spring conditions.
Let your board do the job
Finally, it is really important to never struggle too much in a spring snowboarding situation. Let your board do the work and focus on the ride and on your turns. Soft snow grains may seem very sticky at times, which can make you tired if you push too hard. Let yourself go and trust your board, split the big grains and leaving a nice cut in the snow. All boards are able to get used to the spring snowboarding if tuned properly, but if you’re a speed pro, consider a shorter and wider board. You may be surprised by how easy it will be to rip the Spring grainy snow with it.
Enjoy the ride
(AND THE AFTER-SKI ON THE TERRASSE!)
When you’re well prepared, the grains, bumps and water common to Spring snowboarding won’t ever stop you from enjoying the ride. Those sessions might even be the best of the year for you. All you have to remember is this: The Spring snow is grainy. The grains are firm in the morning and soft in the afternoon. To adapt to all this, you need a well tuned board including sharp edges and a regular application of soft wax. Finally, acclimatize to this type of snow and let your board do the work. EASY!
See you on the slopes under the warm Spring sun!