Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake.
― Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes
Just as there is variety in individual snowflakes, there’s diversity in how it forms when it's falling and while it blankets the ground.
Here are the main snow types you’ll discover while wandering through the winter wilderness:
Sand Snow: Produced during extreme cold temperatures and has a sharp granular texture.
Wild Snow: A very dry, fluffy snow which usually begins to fall during calm periods in the weather and extreme cold snaps. If the wind picks up, dangerous whiteouts can occur.
Wind Packed Snow: The fallen (and accumulated) snow has been heavily compacted by strong winds. The pressure of the blowing wind causes a “cold-heat” hardening affect which creates an excellent surface to walk on without breaking through. It’s also one of the best to make igloo blocks out of.
Corn Snow: Most common in early spring when changing temperatures continually thaw and freeze the accumulated snow. The texture is grainy and is more of a layer of ice crystals separated by air space than actual snow. It’s sticky to ski across and very difficult to walk on without falling through.
Rotten Snow: A dangerous circumstance caused by snow repeatedly melting and freezing on the upper layer (common on the south side of a hill), which in turn causes water to seep through to the lower layer. With the top layer acting as an insulator, the water on the bottom never freezes. The problem is the snow may look safe to walk across but it will collapse when you least expect it.
Slush Snow: This is snow which has absorbed water from below. It can be spotted where the snow surface has a slight depression and areas dark blue in color. Avoid such areas when crossing lakes and especially rivers. It’s a good indicator that a hole is in the ice below.