Different Types of Snow

Snow is the form of precipitation that is most eagerly awaited or dreaded by residents of the Snow Belt. Understanding the different types of snow is important for either group.

The different types of snow are formed by the many different shapes of snowflakes. The Inuit (Eskimos), who live year round in a world dominated by snow, refer to the different types of snow by categories.

Understanding what constitutes falling snow, ground snow, drifting snow, wind beaten snow, snow drift and rough or smooth surfaces of snow, are important to their survival. They learn to deal with each event at an early age.

The National Weather Service predicts what type of snow event will be produced by a storm due to analyzing the data available to them. This includes wind velocity, water vapor, ground and air temperatures and much more.

That information is relayed to the general population and assists communities and individuals in dealing with major snow events.

Snow has different consistencies depending on the shape of the snowflakes and the amount of air left between them. It can be categorized as powdery, granular or eventually ice when it has been packed down, melted and frozen again.

A powdery snow is a light dry snow that travels easily on the wind. This is the snow that skiing enthusiasts eagerly look for on the slopes of mountain resorts across the world.

A granular snow is denser and wetter than the powder snow. This is the snowfall that street and highway maintenance crews dread the most. In the spring and fall this snow accumulates on tree branches and utility wires, causing them to break.

Snowmen, snowballs and snow forts are built easily with the wet granular snow. Ice skating, snow boarding and skiing are best enjoyed when the snow is dry and powdery.

It is important to know several other names used to denote different types of snow in ski areas and the Snow Belt.

Packed powder is snow that has been compacted by skiing or snow grooming equipment but is smooth.

Crud is the term used for powder that has been skied on and trampled in an uneven way.

Crust is snow with a hardened layer of snow over soft snow.

Slush is the term used for melting messy snow.

The different types of snow are formed by many factors, including the shape of snowflakes, the level of moisture in the flakes and the wind combined with air and ground temperatures. Residents of the Snow Belt understand the ramifications of the differences in snow types because of the impact each type brings to their daily lives.