Champagne Powder is a fluffy low density snow that is relegated to the Northwest Rockies. It’s namesake came from the effervescent bottle of Champagne that we all know and love, because of the similar delicacy and lightness of both. And just like we love to celebrate by popping a bottle of Champagne, Steamboat locals and snow enthusiasts alike engage in much celebration when they are blessed with the famed Steamboat powder.
You are probably wondering if Champagne Powder is just a gimmick to get tourists to visit Steamboat Springs Colorado, but, science says otherwise…
From a scientific standpoint, there are reasons why Steamboat is the only resort to be endowed this fluffy gift of nature. Here is the low down:
A. Steamboat gets the snow with the lowest water content in the United States.
B. Steamboat’s snow averages 6% density compared to the average 10+% density of most other mountains.
How/why does this happen?
Wintertime northwesterly storms blow in from the Pacific and hitch a ride on predominant winds. The storm clouds are saturated with “supercooled water” that remains liquid even though it is below the freezing point. (The water is essentially looking for particles to freeze to.)
The Pacific Northwest storms travel about 1,200 miles east, moving across northern Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. Along the way, these wet clouds encounter cold temperatures in the lower part of the troposphere— roughly five degrees Fahrenheit at 2,000 to 5,000 feet above the earth’s surface—where moisture attaches to dust or tiny frozen drops and begin to form a large lace-like snowflake known as the (dreamy) stellar dendrite.
Steamboat is actually a micro mountain range that includes Mount Werner and Storm, Sunshine, Thunderhead, and Christie Peaks. The Park Range rises up smack in the flight path of these Pacific- born storms. When the clouds encounter the mountains, they first lift, then cool, and ultimately lose their ability to hold moisture. Down come the (dreamy) stellar dendrites, AKA Champagne Powder.
Champagne Powder® snow is a trademark of the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation. Joe McElroy, a local Steamboat rancher coined the phrase before the ski area even opened! Out skiing one sunny day in the early fifties, he turned to his friends and said the stuff ‘tickled his nose like champagne’ …Champagne Powder snow. No other ski resort has its snow trademarked and there’s no other place you’ll find Champagne Powder snow!