What is Champagne Powder?
Champagne Powder Snow is very light, dry, and smooth snow, which many regard as the best snow for skiing. Champagne Powder Snow is so light and dry you can’t make a snowball with it.
Legend has it that the term was first used in the early fifties at Steamboat, Colorado. A local rancher used the term to describe the region’s light, dry Rocky Mountain snow. Whilst out skiing one day, on terrain that eventually would become the Steamboat ski area, he said the snow tickled his nose like champagne. Hence Champagne Powder Snow!
Champagne Powder Snow is now a trademark of the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, Colorado.
Steamboat is the only ski resort in the world that has its snow trademarked. So there’s no other place you’ll find real Champagne Powder® Snow!
It’s the low water content of the snow that makes Champagne Powder Snow so special. Steamboat gets snow with the lowest water content in the United States, an average of 6% density, compared with 15% for most other locations. Twenty five centimeters of melted snow produces 1.5cm of water, compared with a more usual four centimeters.
Why and How – Here’s the Science Bit.
Winter storm clouds blow in from the Pacific. These clouds are saturated with ‘super-cooled’, pure water which remains liquid even though it is below the normal freezing point of water. This pure water in the atmosphere is seeking dust and dirt particles that it can freeze to.
The storm clouds encounter cold temperatures in the lower part of the troposphere – roughly -15oC at 2,000 to 5,000 feet above the earth’s surface – here the moisture attaches to dust or tiny frozen drops and begins to form a large lace-like snowflake known as the stellar dendrite.
The Steamboat Park Range rises up into the flight path of these Pacific born storms and the clouds encounter the mountains. As they lift over the mountains they cool and, ultimately, lose their ability to hold moisture. Down come the stellar dendrites, better known as Champagne Powder Snow and give us a ski resort: Steamboat Piste Map.
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