About Transitions

Snow conditions don’t hold still. The snow is always in transition, and understanding where it’s headed and how fast is an important part of ski service. This is especially true when the snow is changing during a race day. Our color coded conditions don’t necessarily transition into each other in the order that they are presented in our fancy graphics. So we’ve created this page to discuss how snow changes.

Warming Conditions
Most often we’re concerned with snow that is getting warmer because most races are scheduled for the part of the day when conditions are warming. Understanding these conditions can help you anticipate which skis to test, and also which waxing strategies to pursue. It can also help you understand what type of common transitions skis need to be selected to cover during the initial fleet set-up.

Green snow can have pretty much any crystal type to begin with – it simply requires extreme cold. As conditions warm, green snow can become blue if it starts with relatively fine, new crystals. If the green snow starts with a higher level of transformation, it will transition into violet snow.

Blue snow is newer crystals, by definition. As it warms it will always transition toward red conditions.

Violet snow is tricky – while it is older and transformed to start with, it may still be quite fine grained and sharp. If the snow is fine enough it may transition into red conditions, while if it starts coarse and fully transformed then it may retain violet characteristics until it turns direction into yellow snow as the moisture breaks free.

Red snow is easy – there’s only one place for it to go. Yellow.

Cooling Conditions
While we’re mostly concerned with warming conditions, it’s worth mentioning cooling conditions as well. Normally, this is relatively simple. When snow gets wet, it transforms rapidly, and as it cools back down it will head toward violet or green conditions as the moisture gets locked back up as ice. The interesting exception to this is red conditions in a low humidity environment like the high mountain west. Snow can reach an alarming level of saturation in these environments and return to blue conditions overnight as moisture is pulled back out by the very dry air. In environments where overnight low temperatures approach dew-point, and therefor very high relative humidity, this is uncommon. It’s only a factor where relative humidity levels stay low overnight.

Ski Selection and Fleet Setup Implications
Understanding that violet conditions can transition directly to yellow, or else transition to red, leads to understanding why one ski may be a violet/yellow ski and another may be a violet/red ski. Typically these transitional conditions are a concern only for skiers with six to ten pairs (per discipline) in their bag. But it’s not uncommon to recognize a need in the transitional range and target something like a violet/yellow ski for selection.