It’s long been debated which is better maritime snowpack or continental snowpack. Here are the pro’s and con’s… You decide.

Maritime Snow

The Palisades


  • Avalanche Risk: Maritime temperatures keep snowpack a little on the heavy side but that warmer snow bonds much easier when compared to a continental snowpack, which sees big downswings in temperature that create hoar and faceted snow.
  • Stomped: Maritime snow delivers the ultimate stomping conditions with a muted spring on landing. Blower can be a little less predictable.
  • Coverage: Maritime snow is the ultimate for coverage. It comes in fast and its heavy and moist qualities allow the snow to stick to steeper and rockier surfaces.
A slab avalanche triggered by a snowmobile. Photo/Friends of Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center.
A slab avalanche triggered by a snowmobile. Photo/Friends of Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center.


  • No Faceshots: It’s definitely harder to go to trenchtown when the snow has the consistency of concrete.
  • Rain: With maritime snow, storms can leave warm. The result? Rain pervading the snowpack and making conditions a nightmare.
  • 32°F: Watch this number because if temperatures rise above this mark, it’s bad news all around for skiing. If it stays right on the mark, it can be some of the best skiing ever.

Continental Snow



  • Trenchtown, USA: A couple of times a year, mother nature blesses the continental Rockies with big dumps that allow for skiers to dig trenches with their bodies and experience sub surface skiing.
  • Cold Temperatures: The continental Rockies experience some seriously frigid weather. That said, those cold temps allow snow to stick around longer and with better consistency.
  • FAST: Colder temps equal speed. Bottomline, if you want to go mach schnell, you need colder temperatures to achieve those ends. Just ask any downhiller.
Hoar Frost
Photo Credit: Wikipedia


  • Dust on Crust: The dreaded DOC or dust on crust can rear its ugly head anytime in a continental mountain climate. Although 4 fresh inches fell last night, fact of the matter is there’s an icy coral reef below that smooth surface and it’s about to take you down.
  • Deep Slab Instabilities: Historically speaking, November temperatures in the continental Rockies are very cold and dry. That said, a little bit of faceted snow on top of dirt can provide the perfect weak layer for deep slab avalanches well into the season. Beware of deep slab instabilities.
  • Bone Yard: Without that sticky maritime snow, steep lines tend to be boney until late season. This makes continental snow dwellers that much more appreciative of the rare maritime storm that may roll through 1-2 times a year.

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