There are different factors that can affect the type of snow that falls. Checking the snow report can give some idea of what types of snow to expect. The weather forecast can also be a good indicator.
What affects the type of snow?
The type of snow that falls is dependent on atmospheric conditions that have an effect on the way the snow crystals form and once the snow has fallen different temperatures affect the kind of snowpack that forms.
Types of snow crystals
Polycrystals are snowflakes that are made up of many different ice crystals.
Snowflakes,on the other hand, are individual ice crystals.
Hoarfrost is a formation of snow crystals if the temperature of the surface is low enough. When this happens the moisture goes directly from vapour to solid.
Graupel describes rounded ice crystals that form pellets. They are similar to hail but softer.
Types of snowfall
Snowfall can be categorised by its intensity. If the snow already on the ground is blown by the wind then it is known as drifting snow. A flurry describes a brief snowfall, of varying intensity. These are short in length and do not add much to the existing snowpack. At the other end of the spectrum is a blizzard, combining heavy snowfall and high winds. These conditions can lead to an unstable snowpack. During a blizzard visibility is also affected. Lying between these two is the snowstorm, which describes a large snowfall.
Types of snowpack
Snowpack describes the accumulated snow on the ground. Powder snow is what many skiers and snowboarders hope for and actively seek out. It is important to be aware of the conditions off piste before going that way as there is a risk of avalanches. It describes freshly fallen snow where the snow crystals are loose. As time goes on it can form a crust, due to weather conditions, so that the snow on top has hardened with a soft layer underneath. On the pistes the snow gets packed down by piste bashers to form hard pack snow. Depending on the temperature it can also melt and become slushy or, as it gets worn down, it can become ice, which is treacherous for unsuspecting skiers and snowboarders.