“The Rolls-Royce of snow crystals”, “diamond sugar crust”, “neige brûlée” – the list of pet names for the favourite form of snow among skating enthusiasts is long and lyrical. But what makes firn so coveted and where can skating-style skiers find this treasure in the Engadin?
At a time when many cross-country skis are already stored away in the basement for the summer, the fun is only just beginning for firn fans. For them, the end of the snow sports season in spring is high season: heaven for firn skaters!
The real star of the show is the spring sun, whose rays warm up the surface of the snow enough for the meltwater to soak the underlying snow thoroughly. If the temperature at night falls below zero again, the upper layer freezes again and voilà: you have a crust of firn! Beneath lies the compact layer of snow that supports cross-country skiers and gives their skis a perfect grip. Our cross-country ski trails are of course prepared freshly every day, but this special snow can be found only on untouched surfaces: firn skaters therefore have to ski away from the prepared strip of snow in order to enjoy the thrilling sensation.
To enjoy the “joys of firn” to the full, you should pay careful attention to the time, because only a couple of hours separate perfect firn snow from slush: heavy, unpleasant and difficult to ski. As the warming rays of the spring sun continue to melt the snow, it becomes steadily wetter and heavier during the course of the day. However, if certain factors come together optimally – namely “time”, “altitude”, “exposure to sunshine”, “temperature” and “wind” – you are guaranteed pure firn skating fun. Sounds complicated? Don’t worry, just trust the advice from our cross-country ski experts: in sunny weather, you can enjoy magnificent firn skating in the morning up to about midday on the Engadin lake plateau, around the Samedan golf course or on the Alp Bondo high trail up to Ospizio.