Tag Archives: Buried Weak Layer

Surface Hoar


Beauty can be dangerous.  This is never more obvious than when admiring sparkly surface hoar–winter’s version of morning dew. Surface hoar grows only on cold, calm nights.


I woke up yesterday morning to a fresh blanket of surface hoar covering the slopes like sparkly corn flakes.  Each individual crystal forms like a striated plate, stealing substance from real snow crystals to reach towards the heavens.

And it is beautiful.

Not only does a blanket of hoar render snowy hillsides brilliant and sparkly, it also freshens the powder.  I love skiing hoar.  Swishing as my skis break through it, a tiny tinkling sound accompanies my turns.

But hoar is a bitch.  When buried by later snow storms (perhaps Tuesday’s impending weather system, fingers crossed) the surface hoar can remain in tact. Imagine flat, icy plates propped on their edges, ready to fall like a house of cards. And that is exactly what surface hoar does.  When buried under calm conditions by new snow, surface hoar becomes a buried weak layer.  The new snow might become the slab.  That’s really all that’s needed for an avalanche–a cohesive slab of snow over a weak layer.

But still I admire the surface hoar.  It sparkles, it tinkles, it fans out in beautifully intricate designs.

Perhaps there are beautiful weak layers buried within me.  Maybe it is those sharp-edged crystals standing on end, so fragile and so precarious, that make me lovable. My husband recently told me that he loves me because of my flaws, not in spite of them.  Who wants perfection in their lives?  No one can live up to that.  Instead, I suppose, we all have buried weak layers inside our own snowpack.

And today, I’m okay with that.