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SnowFlurry 19 2016/17 | The world of powder snow

Self-check: Are you living in reality?

by Lukas Ruetz 03/09/2017
You only ski good powder once or twice a season. Carrying skis is part of it. The real touring season is spring.

Wonderland, Utopia, Oz, Valhalla

Wikipedia: "A fictional universe is a fictional reality that differs from reality to a greater or lesser extent. [...] where laws of nature are suspended." The powder world of the internet is partly such a fiction, according to the snowstormer. Especially when you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed. The more emotion is conveyed by the images, the more likely they are to be clicked on and, above all, given likes, hearts or amazed smileys and thus spread further. It's all about emotions, whether positively or negatively associated: the more beautiful the powder, the more likes and the bigger the avalanche, the more likes.

The reality, which only very rarely brings both cases to light, i.e. usually provides medium to poor snow quality with "medium" avalanche danger, receives little attention. And rightly so: most people are no longer interested in what they are used to. As with many long-standing relationships - and many of us Ullr disciples have one with snow and skiing. If there were always huge avalanches or perfect powder conditions, it would probably be the same "Ohhhhhh" effect if safe conditions with widespread broken snow were to prevail.

As with the snowball effect, the greater number of likes for extraordinary things means that only the most "extraordinary events" are posted - because everyone wants to see them. However, hardly anyone is aware that the reality that is usually present is already extraordinary in itself - if you look closely. Every situation, every swing, every tour is unique with special conditions and is interesting in itself. However, this requires the ability to read, some interest in nature and a little more time than for purely emotional content.

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This feedback effect means that almost only wild, zany, crazy shots are posted online or specifically produced and various sites such as the snow rummager's private blog generate new visitors. Crossing a ridge with a helmet camera is quite something - the fisheye lens makes the slopes to the left and right of the ridge bend further down and the ridge appears even more exposed. What hardly anyone knows: The latest generation of GoPro cameras has the so-called "Superview" - this widens the angle of view even further and distorts the image. A ridge ascent looks even more spectacular. Sporting greats such as Kilian Jornet also work with this camera mode. If you then take an ice axe and crampons with you, perhaps without any real use, and climb a mountain with an altitude of over 3000 m and a well-known name - the Facebook hit is pre-programmed. The established visitor base that only visits the pages for their quality content - if they provide anything with "quality" at all (except for photo editing and video editing) - would be relatively tiny without such traffic.

Back to the snow...

Peter Pan in Neverland

Peter Pan embodies the innocence of childhood, the desire for imaginary adventures, without concern or understanding of real dangers. While all other children eventually leave this world of experience and grow up, Peter Pan never grows up and never changes. In technical jargon, this childlike behavior of an adult is referred to as "infantilism". Like Peter Pan in Neverland, we sometimes move around in the snowy world of the internet. Perhaps not in terms of avalanches, but more in terms of a reality-based awareness of the quantity and quality of snow. Because it's only good on a handful of days each season:

The reality in the Alps

First of all, there is not enough snow for good turns in the terrain. As soon as there is enough of it, there is bad snow due to wind or slush due to heat. The Alps have their annual precipitation minimum between November and February. In contrast, parts of North America have very dry summers and winters with high precipitation. Intense snowfall in high winter is almost always accompanied by stormy winds. Higher up, the avalanche risk limits the possibility of good powder turns, and at lower altitudes there is often no snow base. Most of the time, the avalanche situation is so high when there is just the right amount of fresh snow to make the best turns that you can't really use it.

Good powder snow is most likely to be found in March and April on steeper, high-altitude shaded slopes: There is now a settled base, the avalanche danger has mostly calmed down, the precipitation is often quite intense, as there is often a convective component involved.

But we also have usable mountain weather much more often in winter than on the American west coast. Would you rather have powder in a whiteout or bright sunshine with poorer snow?

In this sense, touring is rarely characterized by good snow and great descents. It's the overall experience.

Note: We can control what is presented to us on the internet with our own attention.

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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