The skier’s world has rhythms. Some are obvious like the linked turns you carve on an open slope or the alternating cycles of uphill and downhill movement. Corn snow, a glorious aspect of spring skiing, is the product of a rhythmic cycle of snow melting and freezing and melting again. Warm days and cold nights massage the base snowpack, work out the inconsistencies, and break down the strata generated between dense man-made snow, November rain, December freeze, January thaw, and February dumps, leaving delicious uniformity. Each night, the snowpack freezes solid and each day it melts slowly under the warmth of the sun, starting from the top and working its way toward the hidden soil beneath.
Corn is hero snow, the most carvable, flawless surface known. Suddenly, you’re ripping turns and standing on your skis like you never could before. Just like the first time you discovered a deep sidecut ski, the sensation is immediate, magnetic, as if you’re glued to the hill. But unlike hardpack, corn snow gives just a little. It’s softer, more forgiving, yet solid. You can ski 60 mph or 60 degree pitches, thanks to corn.
Another rhythm revolves around the lodge and base area. In the heart of winter it is a refuge from the biting cold here in the northeast. Skiers don’t linger outside of the lodge in February. Get the skis off, rack-em, and get quickly inside to push back the cold. In the spring, a different rhythm emerges. The outdoor space around the lodge becomes a destination, a place to linger.
Some mountains have picnic tables outside, and if you do it right, you can slide in without even having to take your skis off. Others have sun soaked patios with close proximity to a bar. And then there’s the “beach”. Snagging first row in the parking lot takes a committed effort to get there early. Come lunchtime, open up the trunk and unpack the camping chairs. Fire up the grill. Pump up the music. Stretch out and take it easy. There’ll be daylight for hours even after a catnap.
Catnap? What was I thinking? Corn snow is fleeting. It exists within a narrow window of elevation, temperature, and exposure. Low-elevation southeast slopes corn up first, followed by pure south, then southwest. Throughout the day, the corn band moves around, moves up, leaves the lower pitches mush and creeps toward the summits. This temporal nature is one of the neatest things about corn: It’s not corn, then it’s corn, then it isn’t corn. The timing is everything…but with corn snow, unlike with powder, there’s always tomorrow.
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