|Ryan Murphy, 13, gets the goods today at Solitude|
|Erik Steenburgh, 12, sampling the Greatest Snow on Earth.|
Yes, his Dad is raising him right.
It takes special snow to make great face shots. Yes, you need deep powder, but it also has to be light and dry so that it easily waffles up in your face when you make a turn or pop off a mogul or jump. For faceshots, you need dendrites stacked deep.
Dendrites are are snowflakes with lots of tree like branches. The stellar dendrite serves as the official logo for Alta, and the unofficial ice crystal of Utah.
|Examples of stellar dendrites from snowcrystals.com, the|
ultimate web site for snow-crystal geeks like me.
Other dendrite types recognized by scientists include spatial dendrites, fernlike stellar dendrites, and radiating dendrites. Check them out on snowcrystals.com.
The significance of dendrites for skiing is that they have lots of pores, cavities, and gaps that are filled with air instead of ice. When dendrites are stacked deep, you have a snowfall that has a very low water content and snowflakes and snowflake fragments that are easily lofted for faceshots.
The snow that fell overnight and this morning was full of dendrites or fragments of dendrites. The fragments come from snowflake collisions, which cause mechanical fracturing.
|Dendrite potpourri at Solitude this afternoon|
|These dendrite fragments ski just fine thank you.|
Dendrites form only under very special conditions. In particular, temperatures where the snowflakes are forming must be between -12 and -18C. You also need the relative humidity to be just right. The upper-air sounding from KSLC this morning shows that temperatures at and above the elevation of the upper Cottonwoods lied in this magic temperature range.
The bottom line is that we were in the dendritic sweet spot. Wasn't that just grand!