Does Rain Melt Snow? (Ski Guide)

Does Rain Melt Snow

If you’re into skiing you might have heard how weather can absolutely demolish or build upon the overall snow conditions on the slope and has the potential of RUINING any chances of having fun on the slopes.

And this can be very true when it rains. 

And for all the skiers out there who haven’t experienced rainfall on snow, you might have wondered ‘does rain melt snow?’.

This article will look into this very question, and explain how the rain affects the snow, and how it will ultimately affect your skiing experience as well.

How Does Rain Affect Snow?

Rain affects snow in two main ways – by either freezing as an ice layer on top of it or melting the snow.

Also read our guide on can you ski in the rain

How Does Rain Affect Snow

The melting process can happen in several ways – it can melt the snow on the slopes due to the higher temperatures of the water droplets (explained later). 

It can also melt the snow by getting into the air pockets and melting ice crystals. This mainly happens in snow mounds, or on snow that has been freshly plowed – which can often be found on ski slopes.

These minds have a lot of air pockets which the rainwater can seep into and melt the snow quickly.

How Does Rain Melt Snow?

Snow melting is similar to that stray ice cube that fell off your glass melting on the table – it’s simply a matter of temperature and humidity.

And when it rains, BOTH of these factors (humidity and temperature) start fluctuating – but mainly temperature, and it can do a number on the snow under the right conditions.

If the temperature of the air around the snow is higher than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the falling rain will be of a similar temperature and therefore can start melting the snow. This can happen if the air surrounding the snow is humid.

However, if the temperature is lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it can actually create a layer of ice on top of the preexisting snow, and will not melt them.

However, something extraordinary can happen if the temperature around the snow starts to fluctuate back and forth. 

If the temperature goes above freezing point and swiftly goes below freezing point, the snow can melt and then turn into ice – which can be dangerous. 

This can cause accidents, especially on the slopes and even on roads. So make sure to read our guide on how to ski on ice, just to stay read for anything.

What Affects The Speed Of Snow Melting

What Affects The Speed Of Snow Melting?

The main and obvious factor would be the temperature – if the temperature is high, the snow will start to melt faster.

So with temperatures like 40 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit snow will melt half an inch to 2 to 4 inches per day if these temperatures are consistent. But this will happen under normal weather conditions.

If these snow slopes are subjected to factors like wind and rain, the melting speed will definitely vary. Wind can intensify the melting process if the air is warm, as the wind will only blow warm wind into the snow, and if this is coupled with rain, the process will be even faster. 

The amount of snow can also have an effect on the speed of melting. With naturally precipitated snow, there are many layers.

Also read our guide on skiing in 40 degree weather.

And the deeper one goes, the colder it can get. If there are many layers of snow, it will take a considerable amount of time for it to melt.

Even if it is freshly plowed snow with a lot of air pockets, a large amount of snow will take a really long time to melt off. 

Can Snowing And Rain Happen At The Same Time?

Yes it can, and this is also determined by the temperature in the air, and the humidity.

If the temperature in the air is at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (and continues to be that way), it will mostly snow. But if the air temperature changes to something higher, the snow will turn into rain. 

And oftentimes it can be a mixture of snow and rain called sleet – which can at times freeze over and create layers of hard ice.  

But How Will This Affect Your Ski Experience?

You head out to the ski slopes with the intention of having fun and a good time with your gang, and the entire trip CAN be jeopardized by the weather if you don’t pay attention to the forecast.

So what you must do is check the forecast and see if the coming days are very hot, or rainy (since both can affect the quality of the snow adversely).

And if you like to chase powder, checking the weather in the coming days is CRUCIAL! 

You can still ski in rain, and ice will not be an issue since your skis are equipped to cut into the ice, but it will NOT be the pleasant experience you wanted.

So avoid days that are rainy, or too sunny, and you’ll be good!

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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