By Leandro Lutz
In Nordic skiing there is always debate on which skis are the best, which pair of poles is lighter or which wax brand is faster, but one issue is unanimous, it's impossible to ski with no snow.
Every year we look forward to the first snowfall and the opening of the Nordic ski tracks. But each year we rely more and more on the making of artificial snow and snow farms at the start of the season.
But what is snow? Where does it come from, what are its characteristics and types and why is snow so important to Nordic skiing? Snow is nothing more than a meteorological event consisting of the precipitation of flakes formed by ice crystals, requiring two specific climatic conditions: low temperatures and moisture in the atmosphere.
A snowfall can present light, moderate or strong intensity, with each snowflake being composed of frozen water in a crystalline form that, due to its great ability to reflect light, acquires a translucent appearance and white color. Snow usually occurs in areas of medium and high latitudes, regions of cold and temperate climate and high altitudes.
A lot of people know that I'm a Brazilian Nordic skier and travel the world in search of snow. But did you know that it also snows in Brazil? Despite being a tropical country, snow occurs occasionally every year, most commonly in the months of June, July and August (Austral Winter) in the three southern states of Brazil (Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná), with the record of snow accumulation occurring in the winter of 1879, with two meters of snow at a mere latitude of 27° South.
Now, returning to the world of Nordic Skiing, we can say that it is very important to know about the different types of snow and its characteristics, both to properly prepare your skis and to better enjoy your skiing. In a quick read, you can find more than 20 types of snow, with the most varied and creative names: ball bearings, bulletproof, Colorado super chunk, champagne powder, mashed potatoes and penitents, among countless others.
But what really interests us are the snow types and nomenclatures adopted by the main wax companies and on which we ski every day:
New snow - falling snow or newly fallen, has sharp crystals, which last around a couple of days. The hotter the temperature, the faster the crystals lose their shape and the snow becomes old.
Old snow - is the snow in which its crystals melted and lost their shape, being the most common type of snow and also known as fine-grained snow.
Icy/Coarse snow - these are the fastest of all snow conditions. In this type of snow the ice crystals have totally lost their shape after melting and freezing. This snow is old, transformed and quite abrasive. Often artificial snow falls into this category.
Wet snow - snow is saturated with water. Snow is wet and warm, the temperature is higher than 0°C, and the structure of its crystals has rounded edges.
Cold snow - it is the coldest snow condition, being new, old or artificial. Usually this snow is quite dry, meaning that high fluor will not make a difference in glide, but using the hardest wax possible can be the key to this condition.