What is Firn and why is it awesome for skiing/snowboarding?

Firn (pronounced fɪrn, from Swiss German firn “last year’s”) is a state of snow that is the result of typical spring weather conditions: daytime temperatures above the freezing point, and nighttime temperatures under the freezing point. Firn is kind of granular, not saturated with water and is very pleasurable to ski on. Not only groomed slopes but also off-piste snow can become firn, making it almost just as easy to ski off-piste as on groomed slopes. In the early morning firn is still hard (comparable with a slope that was groomed in the evening and frozen hard during the night) but as the sun starts shining, the firn ‘opens’ (‘aufgefirnter Schnee’ as the locals say) and becomes a skiers/snowboarders dream. This means that with a bit of luck and planning you can ski on firn all day long: starting on the slopes that are exposed to the east, and finishing the day on slopes that are exposed to the west.

To quote A complete guide to Alpine Ski touring (Henry Branigan; Keith Jenns) :

Skiing Firn
Next to skiing powder, this is probably the best loved snow condition to ski on. Cruising turns with very little effort or energy output, on a firn base with about one inch of firn (just when the sun begins to melt the snow-sometimes called spring snow). This can be as good as the best piste conditions, characterised by smooth vertical movement and flowing shift of weight, accompanied by a light pole plant action. The ski position is whatever suits the skier.

Back to the Crazy Spring Snow Camp