The snow depth specifies the depth of the layer of snow. This parameter is important for winter athletes who then use it to interpret which type of sports are possible. You will find snow depths and winter weather reports in the Internet. The snow depth does not only depend on the location but also the region. Generally it is higher along the northern slopes than along the southern slopes.
The snow depth provides no information on the quality of the snow. It is generally composed of old snow and new snow and winter athletes are mostly interested in new snow. If there is no new snow, the old snow is generally crusty and even icy, which is not at all suitable for winter sports. When the snow level is low, skiers must also be familiar with the area. When the terrain is uneven, a snow depth of 10 to 20 cm is generally not adequate, because stones and other impediments can be hidden under the snow and may pose a danger to skiers.
The depth of the snow is measured with snow gauges, snow sensors and altitude sensors which operate on the basis of ultra sound. The simplest method consists of digging poles into the earth in autumn at regular intervals which supply the respective snow level.
For winter sport conditions, not only the present but also the predicted depth of snow and its development are relevant. The development can be derived from the temperature and the expected precipitation, if one has experience in this area.
However, an expected snow fall of 10 cm does not automatically lead to an absolute depth which is 10 cm higher. What must also be taken account of is that the snow depth decreases when the snow melts. Insolation is a contributing factor. If there is a warm weather period and there is no new snow over an extended period of time then it is evident that the depth of snow decreases, too.
Winter sports can be enjoyed all year round due to the fact that winter sport areas in higher elevations have been made accessible. To participate in these kinds of sports one must transcend the snow limit in summer, which is right below 3000 m in the Alps. But you can expect long and complicated travels or expensive flights to get there. For these kinds of summer sports, however, it is less the depth of the snow that is decisive but more the depth of the new snow. This kind of terrain is usually situated on glaciers and its really old snow has become ice and is not factored in when the depth of the snow is specified. At any rate, each slope’s condition and the weather are subject to short-term changes, but can be checked on the internet at any time.