First Turns: Of Powder and Crust and Corn

First Turns: Of Powder and Crust and Corn

I’ve gotten a few days of skiing since the beginning of November, mostly
kicking and gliding through the woods. But I have had a couple of
telemarking adventures mixed in with my cross-country outings. I did miss
the 1st turns in October; I was out of the country in the Tropics. Darn!

Still, I returned to another storm. On the 2nd Sunday in November, there
was just enough snow near my home at 5,000 feet to climb up the hill a
block from the house. I stopped to admire the post-storm views then slid
back down to the road again. With only 6-10 inches of snow cover, I dodged rocks
and logs. Still, turns are turns – first turns of the season. Yea!

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I headed out for a dawn patrol
before work. The snow was older by then and had received some rain. How
bad could it be?

dawn patrol

Skinning up at 7:30AM, the crust was slick but seemed firm enough to
support a sliding turn; no worries about getting back down (so I thought
as I climbed). At about 8,000 feet on a shady North Westerly aspect, I stumbled
upon 200 yards of untrammeled powder. Wow! First powder turns of
the season. Woo, hoo. After a couple of rounds up then down, it was
time to head down for work.

That firm crust? Not firm enough! As a turn would develop, one ski would
break through and come to a complete stop. My other ski and body of course kept moving. Sitzmark! I must have fallen at least 6-7 times. Not So Fun. “OK”, I
thought, “back to traipsing through the woods on whatever snow remains”. I admit it publicly, I do not know how to ski breaking crust. (I’ll take suggestions…)

This last Friday I checked the avalanche report for the weekend (“low”). Southerly aspects
receiving mid-day sun were predicted to warm up enough to form corn. Corn?
Early December? Really?

This is California, folks. If there’s snow that gets rained upon (or other slush
forming conditions), followed by a hard refreeze, when that firm crust sits in the
famed California Sun, we get corn snow. So, yeah, the conditions made
perfect, mid-day corn, just like late Spring, only later in the day with no sun cups.

Saturday around 11AM, I went in search of the fabled California corn. I
found 3 glades, one below the other, softening to about 1-2 inches. I had so much
fun that I planned my Sunday around a mid-day return. The
second day, my older lines had softened enough to ignore. (no ruts)

glade 2

Oh, and can I still turn my skis after the Summer break? (telemark turns
being what this blog is supposed to be about)

Well, every turn wasn’t picture perfect, I’ll admit.

I’m working on getting onto the ball of the back foot instead of balancing on the joint
between toes and foot. This shift is causing some front-to-back balance

Irrespective of how the lead and edge change is accomplished, the upper
body stance must remain balanced between the feet in order to keep weight
on the back foot. Lean forward to create an instant “doggie leg”. If it’s
not one thing it’s another. Once I remembered to angulate rather than lean, my turns became more consistent.

But, hey, a turn is a turn is a turn; it’s still early in the season, right? Last year’s lead change magic is still magic, especially on perfect corn on a blue bird day, 8,000 feet up
in the Central Sierras.

Life is good. Happy telemarks (or whatever your backcountry turn of







3 thoughts on “First Turns: Of Powder and Crust and Corn

  1. Brook,
    Your accounts of your tele turn analysis and progress are much anticipated and appreciated. After a lifetime of downhill skiing that has been increasingly infrequent due to the distance to any resorts, I have dedicated my remaining skiing years to learning to make an acceptable tele turn so that I might get in some skiing in our coastal mountains of far northern CA, where we live.

    Your analytical approach to the turn is similar to mine, so your descriptions and photos/videos are most helpful in my self-teaching sessions. Please keep up your great work and thank you so much.


    • Thank you! If you have questions are other commentary (even and especially if you think I’m off-base), please feel free to comment. I’d love for this space to be an open forum for discussion. Happy turning! At least here, there is snow.

  2. Yes, as I look out our rain-streaked windows at 1,500 feet, to the not-too-distant higher country peaking at about 5k ft. and see tantalizing glimpses of snow cover one day, then none a day or two later, your comment about at least having snow where you are is comforting or frustrating, depending on the mood. Some days I even start eyeing the steep, leaf-covered slopes near our house, but that would just be foolish. I may have to drive somewhere distant if this keeps up. Not too comforting to recall that last season we had to wait until March for any snow in our area.

    That business about keeping the ball of your back foot down on the ski may be helped by a more active binding, though you have probably considered this. On my second and newest to me pair of tele skis I mounted some 22 Designs Hammerheads, for that purpose and to help me control the back ski. I only used them a couple of times late last spring on some pitiful remnants of wet snow, set to the stiffest position, and they do seem to help me to flex my boot at the bellows more than pivoting at the toe tip, as long as I weight that ski adequately. Better control of that back ski may eventually follow.

    Enjoy that snow,

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