In most Northern Hemisphere ski resorts, the snow season runs from mid-November to early April. Some ski resorts can extend their snow season to early July, depending on the snowfall and their snowmaking facilities. We experience extreme temperatures throughout this time, but what temperature is good for snowboarding?
Snow conditions are usually at their best in colder temperatures. But, the ideal temperature for snowboarding is subjective. You can enjoy the mountain differently throughout the season. You can ride powder in January and have fun slush bashing closer to spring; it’s how you use the conditions.
Visiting the mountains at different times of the season can give you very different experiences. So, let’s examine how the temperature affects your shred time.
How Temperature Affects Snow Conditions?
During my 35-plus years of visiting ski resorts, I’ve experienced temperatures ranging from -40F (-40C) in Canada to toasty summer riding on UK dry slopes and glaciers in France.
I love riding in pretty much any temperature, as long as I’m comfortable and dressed for the occasion. But I prefer it when the sun shines and the snow is soft and deep.
I’m also partial to slushy spring riding for the milder temperatures and forgiving snow conditions.
When the snow is consistently icy all over the mountain, I’d rather call it a day and go for an Irish coffee until it softens up. Here’s what the snow conditions are like at various temperatures:
In this low-temperature range, it’s often too cold for quality snow to fall naturally.
If snow falls in these super cold temperatures, it will look almost like ice chips, creating a hardpacked surface with lots of slippery ice to deal with.
At this temperature, you’ll need to be a very committed rider to step foot out of your accommodation.
This temperature range gives you excellent snow quality, both when it falls and how it’s preserved. The flakes are pretty ideal, and the cold temperature prevents the snow from melting.
These temperatures also create quality snow, as snow can fall and stay in good condition on the hill. However, the snowpack will get softer later in the day, especially the parts in direct sunlight.
The avalanche risk in the backcountry also increases as the snow becomes a little heavier.
This is when you’ll start to notice differences in the snow quality. The snow will be at its best in the morning, as the colder temperatures overnight will freeze it.
As the sun beats down on the snow throughout the day, it will soften, creating a slushier consistency in the afternoon.
These temperatures indicate you’re getting close to the end of the season. Therefore, you can expect the snow to be slushy and wet.
With all the people carving through the slush, it will also become rutted and littered with moguls.
How To Enjoy Snowboarding in All Temperatures?
I love riding no matter the temperature, as long as I’m not too cold. But your tolerance for the cold may be different from mine. Here’s how you can make the most of each of the conditions.
Heading up the mountain when it’s -58oF is not much fun. But, the key to staying comfortable in colder temperatures is to layer up.
Start with a quality base layer made from technical fabric that dries quickly and wicks moisture from your skin. You then need to team your base layer with a decent mid-layer.
This could be anything from a technical sweater to a down jacket. Whatever you choose should be thick enough to keep you warm without restricting your movement.
Then you need an outer layer. Your jacket and pants should be insulated to keep you warm. But you may need to add another layer or two if your outer layer doesn’t have much insulation.
Riding in warmer temperatures requires fewer or thinner layers. You can often get away with a t-shirt, hoodie, or a spring riding jacket at the end of the season.
The snow is often bulletproof in the mornings, as it melts later in the day and freezes overnight. So treat yourself to a lie-in and head up the mountain a little later when the snow starts to soften.
I mentioned earlier that warmer temperatures make the snow slushy, rutted, and full of moguls, which may sound awful.
It’s not great for skiers, as the slush grabs the edges and can cause painful knee injuries. However, slush is a lot of fun for snowboarders.
The technique is a little like the one you’d use for riding powder, and it almost has a surf-like feel to it, making it pretty entertaining. But what about those moguls?
Some snowboarders stay away from moguls, but they’re missing out. Slushy moguls are great for practicing jumps. Pick a mogul and jump onto the backside of the next one.
As you improve, throw in a few grabs and work your way to spins. As you ride down a slope in the spring, scan the edges for side hits.
Side hits naturally form when people turn around slope markers and snow cannons but become more pronounced when the snow is slushy.
They’re great for jumping off, and the landings are soft, so you can experiment more with tricks.
The latter part of the season sees much quieter slopes, and this means you have more freedom to play and practice with fewer people in your way.
Also, you get more daylight hours, so sitting outside in the milder temperatures with a beer is much more pleasant.
When the temperatures are cold, you’ll no doubt encounter icy conditions from time to time. This means that your edge hold will be compromised, preventing you from carving.
However, you can help yourself to stay in control by sharpening your snowboard’s edges. Sharp edges may not cut into the ice, but they help you turn and stop.
Sharp edges are less critical when the snow is softer. It’s good to monitor your edges, but you’ll find that you may only need to sharpen them once a season.
Waxing your base is a large part of servicing your snowboard. You may need to do this every week or two of riding. However, riding slushy snow quickly pulls the wax off your base.
So much so that if you’re riding in spring, you may need to wax your board daily. You’ll also notice your board will run slower when the snow is slushy.
Therefore, you’ll need to keep your speed up when approaching flat sections. However, you can make a difference to the glide by using warm-temperature wax.
You can also use low-temperature wax for colder periods. This stuff increases your speed when the snow temperature is at its lowest.
However, most people use universal wax, so they don’t have to worry about using the right wax for the temperature.
You can have fun snowboarding in most temperatures, as long as you’re comfortable and safe. Sometimes, the weather can be pretty miserable, making your time on the mountain less enjoyable.
On these days, take a rest day, explore the other attractions in the resort, and go for a long lunch.